United States Nat. Bank of Ore. v. Independent Ins. Agents of America, Inc., 508 U.S. 439 (1993)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the district of columbia circuit

No. 92-484. Argued April 19, 1993—Decided June 7, 1993*

The Act of Sept. 7, 1916, 39 Stat. 753 (1916 Act), among other things, authorized any national bank doing business in a community with a population not exceeding 5,000 to act as the agent for any insurance company. Although early editions of the United States Code included this provision as section 92 of Title 12 (section 92), the 1952 Code and subsequent editions omitted section 92 with a note indicating that Congress had repealed it in 1918. Nevertheless, interpreting section 92 to permit banks located in small communities to sell insurance outside those communities, petitioner Comptroller of the Currency ruled in 1986 that petitioner national bank could sell insurance through its branch in a small Oregon town to customers nationwide. Respondents, various trade organizations representing insurance agents, brought this suit challenging the Comptroller's decision as inconsistent with section 92's terms. The District Court disagreed with that assertion and granted summary judgment for petitioners, noting that section 92 apparently was inadvertently repealed in 1918, but expressing the view that the provision exists "in proprio vigore." Respondents did not challenge section 92's validity in the District Court or the Court of Appeals, despite the latter court's invitation to do so at oral argument. Only after that court ordered supplemental briefing on the issue did respondents even urge the court to resolve the question, while still taking no position on the merits. In reversing and remanding with instructions to enter judgment for respondents, the Court of Appeals found first that, though the parties had not on their own questioned section 92's validity, the court had a duty to do so, and, second, that the relevant statutes, traditionally construed, demonstrated that section 92 was repealed in 1918.

Held: 1. The Court of Appeals had discretion to consider the validity of section 92, and under the circumstances did not abuse it. There is no doubt that the court had before it an Article III case or controversy

*Together with No. 92-507, Ludwig, Comptroller of the Currency, et al. v. Independent Insurance Agents of America, Inc., et al., also on certiorari to the same court.


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