Melinda Deslatte / The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Gov. Bobby Jindal has tapped his former executive counsel to defend the governor's education laws in court, rather than use the in-house lawyers from the state attorney general's office.

Attorney Jimmy Faircloth has been retained to defend the state, the Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in lawsuits seeking to throw out the governor's signature education policies, including the creation of a statewide voucher program.

Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin said Friday that the governor chose to hire Faircloth, who is now in private practice, to defend the new laws against objections from two teacher unions that allege the sweeping education changes violate the Louisiana Constitution.

'Jimmy is an incredible lawyer and will do a great job defending the interests of the people of Louisiana who want a better education system,' Plotkin said in a statement.

He didn't explain why the attorney general's office couldn't do the legal work for the state. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is the state's chief legal officer, and his office typically represents the state in legal matters.

Amanda Larkins, a Caldwell spokeswoman, said the attorney general made the decision to hire Faircloth 'in communication with the administration.' She said the attorney general's office regularly communicates with the state agency being sued and the governor's administration about legal counsel 'to be assigned to a particular case of this type.'

Faircloth represented the state in a scheduling conference Friday with a Baton Rouge district judge, according to court documents.

It is unclear how much Faircloth is being paid for the work. Larkins said contract information should be available next week.

'It will be an hourly rate contract, but those details are still being finalized,' she said in an e-mail.

Hired by Jindal when he began his term in 2008, Faircloth left the governor's office in July 2009 to mount a failed bid for a seat on the Louisiana Supreme Court. Since then, he's done work for other state agencies.

In 2011, he was fined by the Louisiana Board of Ethics for entering into a contract to represent the Louisiana Tax Commission six months after he resigned from the governor's office. Under state law, Faircloth was required to wait a year, the board said. Faircloth returned the money he had received for his work with the tax commission.

Faircloth is one of the governor's appointees to the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors.

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