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While a Republican-appointed federal judge in Virginia struck down the requirement that nearly all Americans carry health insurance, Judge Vinson invalidated the entire law, from the Medicare expansion to a change that allows adult children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance. Three federal judges, all Democratic appointees, have upheld the law.

The arguments unfolded in what’s considered one of the nation’s most conservative appeals courts. But the randomly selected panel represents different judicial perspectives. None of the three is considered either stalwart a conservative or an unfailing liberal.

Judge Dubina, who first was tapped to the bench as a federal magistrate in 1983, is not considered to be as reflexively conservative as some of his colleagues. But he’s under particular scrutiny because of his daughter’s outspoken opposition to the health care overhaul. U.S. Rep. Martha Dubina Roby, a Montgomery, Ala., Republican elected in November, voted to repeal the health care ban because she said it was “less about providing health care for all citizens and more about expanding federal government.”

The other two judges aren’t easy to pin down either. Judge Marcus first was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to serve on the Florida bench after several years as Miami’s lead federal prosecutor; he later was elevated by Mr. Clinton. And Judge Hull, a former county judge in Atlanta, is known for subjecting both sides of the counsel table to challenging questions.

A crush of people gathered outside the 11th Circuit nearly three hours before the arguments were held to guarantee a spot, and the court opened an adjoining courtroom for the spillover crowd. The cramped room was packed with high-profile lawyers and politicians, including Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, who sat in the front row. In a rare move, the court decided to sell $26 audiotapes of the arguments for those who missed out.

As the arguments took place, about 75 people staged a rally outside the downtown Atlanta building urging the appeals court to strike the law down, waving signs including one that read, “Hands Off My Health Care.”

When the panel does issue a decision — and it could be months — there’s a chance the full 11-judge court could decide to review the ruling. But everyone in the courtroom — the judges included — knew the debate would eventually land in the Supreme Court.

“I doubt this is the last time we’ll be arguing this case,” Judge Dubina said. “Maybe next time we’ll be in Washington.”