CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The attorney representing former Charlotte mayor Patrick Cannon who was arrested on federal public corruption charges is a very successful lawyer in North Carolina.

James Ferguson has had the kind of career that most lawyers can only dream about.

I think he's long been regarded as someone you want in your corner when the chips are down, said Noel Tinn, defense attorney.

Tinn has one of the most successful practices in Charlotte. But 20 years ago he was fresh out of law school and went to work for Ferguson.

I was very lucky to get a job with him 20 years ago, Tinn said. There were probably hundreds and hundreds of lawyers who would have loved to have that job.

Ferguson taught at Harvard Law, has argued and won important civil rights cases before the Supreme Court and gotten the convictions of the Wilmington 10 overturned, just to name a few of his accomplishments.

Cannon is his most recent high profile client.

I think he's a great pick, said Tinn.

The federal documents that have been released so far would suggest that the deck is stacked against Cannon. But Tinn says one of the reasons he thinks Ferguson is well suited to represent him is toughness.

I learned what it meant to have steel in your spine and sometimes as a lawyer you have to understand when you need to dig your heels in, said Tinn.

Ferguson has tried corruption cases before with some success, but being successful in this case may be a very tall order. Most of the attorneys in Charlotte would agree if anyone would be up for that challenge, it would be Ferguson.

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