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Federal judge questions Obama's comments about power of courts

President Barack Obama's comments about the health care law touched off a debate, leading a federal judge to ask the Justice Department to refute what Obama said.

NBC News’ Pete Williams reports on a controversy sparked by federal appeals court Judge Jerry Smith, who put a Justice Department lawyer on the spot Tuesday for remarks made by his boss, President Barack Obama.

Smith, a Ronald Reagan appointee to the 5th Circuit Court, questioned Obama’s response to a question regarding his predictions about whether the Supreme Court might strike down the health care law. The Supreme Court heard six hours of arguments about the law last week.  

“For years what we heard was that the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism, or lack of judicial restraint,” Obama said. “An unelected group of people would overturn a duly constituted and passed law. This is a good example.”

Judge Smith asked for a letter from the government by noon Thursday stating its position on the power of the courts to strike down laws.

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