PHOENIX – Top state officials are at odds over whose lawyers will represent the state to defend its new law targeting illegal immigration, with Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard contending that Republican Gov. Jan Brewer can’t kick him off the case.

Brewer announced Friday night that she was invoking a provision in the law to have private attorneys represent the state. They already are representing her in some of the legal challenges to the law that name her as a defendant.

Goddard’s top aide, however, said that Brewer cannot invoke the provision because it doesn’t take effect until July 29. And she may not be able to keep Goddard from representing the state anyway, Chief Deputy Attorney General Tim Nelson said Saturday.

“We have real concerns about the constitutionality of that,” he said. “It’s an open question.”

Goddard has criticized the sweeping law but said Friday he would vigorously defend it from the pending challenges. He also said he urged Justice Department officials during a Friday meeting to not file their own legal challenge to the law.

Brewer said she decided to have her own lawyers represent the state partly because Goddard previously criticized the law. She also cited his “curious coordination” with Justice Department officials concerning the law.

“The Legislature gave me this authority because of its lack of confidence in the attorney general’s willingness to vigorously defend this legislation that is so critical to protecting the safety and welfare of Arizona’s citizens,” Brewer said.