An Oklahoma state regent for higher education came under fire Thursday for representing opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson in its appeal against an Oklahoma judge’s ruling that the company helped fuel Oklahoma’s opioid crisis.

Andy Lester, a partner in the Oklahoma City law office of Spencer Fane LLP, is one of the attorneys representing the company that was ordered to pay the state $572 million to help abate the state’s opioid crisis.

Johnson & Johnson appealed the ruling last month.

Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, said Lester’s work for Johnson & Johnson creates a conflict of interest because Oklahoma’s colleges and universities will play a role in helping to abate the state’s opioid crisis. A large chunk of the state’s settlement with Purdue Pharma will create a large endowment at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Wellness and Recovery for treating opioid addiction. That settlement is separate from the ruling against Johnson & Johnson.

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