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Arthur Branch is a fictional attorney and a regular character on the TV crime dramas Law & Order and Law & Order: Trial by Jury. Branch has also appeared on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Conviction.


Branch was portrayed by United States Senator Fred Thompson, making Thompson one of the few actors to have a regular role on two TV series simultaneously as the same character. When Thompson first accepted the role, he was still a sitting member of the United States Senate — his term would not expire for several more weeks — thus making Thompson the first sitting U.S. Senator to accept an acting job playing someone other than himself; however, he had already been an actor for many years before being elected.

Thompson was the only regular on Law & Order who actually was once a prosecutor in real life. He worked as an assistant United States Attorney from 1969 to 1972.

Character background

Branch graduated from Yale Universitymarker and later was a professor at Yale Law School. He and his wife, Lillian, have lived in New York Citymarker since the early 1980s from the state of Georgiamarker. They have at least one child, a son named Bobby (L&O: "Sheltered"). They also have a grandson and a granddaughter (L&O: "True Crime"). He speaks with a slight southern accent and commonly uses colorful metaphors.

Branch is elected the Manhattan District Attorney (L&O: "American Jihad"), replacing Nora Lewin (Dianne Wiest); this would make him the first Republican to hold the position in 60 years. His administration is a sharp contrast to that of Lewin, as he has little difficulty in accepting capital punishment in certain cases (L&O: "Tragedy on Rye") and does not believe in the existence of a Constitutional right to privacy. He had written a book on the justice system (L&O: "Shangri-La") and represented the Chinese government when he worked in private practice (L&O: "The Wheel").

This often puts him in conflict with Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), a relatively liberal centrist, as well as his previous assistant Serena Southerlyn (Elisabeth Röhm), a liberal idealist and feminist. He has few quarrels with Alexandra Borgia (Annie Parisse), who is more conservative in her viewpoints than Southerlyn, in the mold of Southerlyn's predecessor, Abbie Carmichael (Angie Harmon). He is portrayed as having an amicable working relationship with the current Junior ADA, Connie Rubirosa (Alana de la Garza).

While his legal philosophy is decidedly conservative, he is not blindly partisan; he ascribes cynical, political motives to drug prohibition, refers to the National Guard as "the Dan Quayle Brigade", and is not averse to seeking alternatives to the death penalty when he thinks it appropriate.

Although he is personally pro-life, he orders Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Casey Novak (Diane Neal) to arrest a doctor who deliberately misleads a young pregnant woman to ensure her pregnancy would develop past the legal time limit for the procedure, thus prompting her to desperately ask her boyfriend to assault her to induce a still birth (SVU: "Rockabye").

He fires Southerlyn because he feels she is inappropriately sympathetic towards the defendant she is prosecuting. Despite her parting fears, Branch says he is not firing her because she's a lesbian.(L&O: "Ain't No Love")

In May 2007 it was announced that Thompson was leaving Law & Order to run for the Republican Party's 2008 nomination for President. It was also confirmed that McCoy was chosen to serve out the remainder of Branch's term of office in (SVU: "Blinded"), but no reason for Branch's departure has been given on air.

In Oct 2009 (L&O: "Reality Bites"), it is mentioned to Jack McCoy by Mike Cutter that the producers of a reality TV show want Arthur Branch to be the judge on the show set on Long Island, where he will preside over the heads of two dysfunctional households (bearing apparent similarities to the Gosselin and Nadia Suleman families) that are both suspects in the murder of the mother of one of the two households.


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