We believe that North Carolina has thousands of lawyers. In fact, North Carolina has our own lawyer on retainer -- he's the attorney general; his name is Roy Cooper.
Which, of course, means that Deputy Assistant Guvnor Pat has to hire his own lawyers for just about everything, because Roy wants to move into Pat's house.
So when the feds came calling with subpoenas, Pat & his McCrony John Skvarla hired a lawyer.
But this lawyer used to represent Duke Energy, the subject of all the subpoenas in the first place.
The lawyer hired to represent North Carolina's environmental agency during a federal investigation into its regulation of Duke Energy's coal ash dumps once represented the utility company in a different criminal probe.
Thousands of lawyers, and Skvarla chose Mark Calloway, who represented Duke in the past.
Now we realize that lawyers represent lots of different clients, and it's not all that uncommon to end up representing what might be perceived as competing interests. And often, it's nothing untoward.
The state agency's chief lawyer said Monday that he saw no conflict of interest in Calloway's prior representation of Duke, the nation's largest electricity company.
But in this case, with all the (literal and figurative) slime associated with it, it seems either really stupid or really...er...slimy to hire a guy who worked for the enemy.
"As far as the rules of professional conduct and the State Bar ethics rules that govern attorney conflict, it doesn't sound like an obvious violation," said Eric Fink, and associate professor at Elon University School of Law. "But for a reasonable person looking at this, it would raise eyebrows."
"It's a fuzzy area. I see real grounds for members of the public to question what this says about the state's independence of Duke," he added.
Let's ask some of the principals:
Calloway [the hired lawyer] did not respond Monday to messages seeking comment.
Duke spokesman Tom Williams declined to comment on the issue.