By DIANE JEANTET
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The former personal lawyer of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has joined the ranks of the country’s Supreme Court amid criticism that their relationship poses a conflict of interest. Cristiano Zanin formally became a high court justice Thursday, filling the seat vacated by the April retirement of Justice Ricardo Lewandowski. Lula appointed Zanin in June, drawing accusations from the opposition that he is jeopardizing the impartiality of the nation’s highest court by placing a friend as one of its justices. Lula denies that the two are friends. Zanin helped Lula overturn a graft conviction stemming from Brazil’s sprawling “Car Wash” corruption investigation. That allowed Lula to get out of jail in time to run successfully for his third presidential term.