Allies praise judge upset by Obama court remarks

In this undated handout photo by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Jerry E. Smith is seen in New Orleans, Friday, April 6, 2012. (AP Photo/U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, handout)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge who called out President Barack Obama for saying it would be "unprecedented" for the Supreme Court to strike down a law like his administration's health care overhaul is a conservative voice on what may be the nation's most conservative appeals court.

But those who know Judge Jerry E. Smith from his years on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and earlier days in Texas politics paint a more complex portrait. They say he's someone not bound by conservative ideology or afraid to buck the Republican party line.

Ilya Somin is a George Mason University law professor who clerked for Smith in 2001 and 2002. He says Smith takes his judicial responsibilities seriously and is "very careful to stay out of any political controversy."