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Arthur Branch is a fictional character on the TV crime drama Law & Order and one of its spinoffs, Law & Order: Trial by Jury. Branch has also appeared on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Conviction. He appeared in 142 episodes of the various series in the franchise (116 episodes of Law & Order, 11 episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, one episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, all 13 episodes of Law & Order: Trial by Jury, and the pilot episode of Conviction).

Arthur Branch
Law & Order character
Arthur Branch.jpg
First appearance"American Jihad" (L&O)
"Fallacy" (SVU)
"The Abominable Snowman" (TBJ)
Last appearance"The Family Hour" (L&O)
"Gone" (SVU)
"Eros in the Upper Eighties" (TBJ)
Portrayed byFred Dalton Thompson
FamilyLillian Branch (wife)
Bobby Branch (son)
Unnamed Grandson (grandson)
Maggie (granddaughter)
Andy (nephew)
SeasonsL&O: 13, 14, 15, 16, 17
SVU: 4, 5, 6, 7
TBJ: 1

Branch was portrayed by former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson. He played Branch concurrently in Law & Order and Trial by Jury, making him one of the few actors to have a regular role on two TV series simultaneously as the same character. When Thompson began the role, he was still a sitting member of the United States Senate—his term did not expire until several months after his first episode aired—thus making Thompson the first sitting U.S. Senator to portray someone other than himself on TV. (Thompson had an active acting career before his election to the Senate.)

Thompson was the only regular on Law & Order who was once a prosecutor in real life. He worked as an assistant United States Attorney from 1969 to 1972.[1]

Character backgroundEdit

Branch graduated from Yale University and Yale Law School. He was later a professor at the latter. He and his wife, Lillian, have lived in New York City since moving in the early 1980s from the state of Georgia. According to McCoy, Lillian "loves the smell of concrete", and would not allow Arthur to move from New York City back to Georgia.[2] Arthur and Lillian have at least one child, a son named Bobby.[3] They also have a grandson and a granddaughter named Maggie.[4] He also has a nephew named Andy.[5] He owns a Chevrolet and a Porsche.[6] He speaks with a southern accent and commonly uses colorful metaphors.

Branch is elected the Manhattan District Attorney in 2002, replacing Nora Lewin (Dianne Wiest).[2] He says that he was elected DA because the people of Manhattan wanted to feel safe after the September 11 attacks.[7] He and Abbie Carmichael are the only characters in the show known to be Republicans. Branch's administration is a sharp contrast to that of Lewin, as he supports the death penalty and does not believe in the existence of a Constitutional right to privacy.[8] He had written a book on the justice system[9] and represented the Chinese government when he worked in private practice.[10]

His legal and political conservatism 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. He is portrayed as having an amicable working relationship with ADA Connie Rubirosa (Alana de la Garza).

He strongly supports the Iraq War.[11] He does not oppose same-sex marriage, nor does he particularly approve of it; he believes that it is none of his business nor that of the federal government.[12] 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 describes himself as even more "pro-law", and orders Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Casey Novak (Diane Neal) to arrest a doctor who deliberately misled 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.[13]

In the episode "Ain't No Love", he fires Southerlyn because he feels she is inappropriately sympathetic towards a defendant she is prosecuting. Despite her parting fears, Branch says he is not firing her because she is a lesbian.[14]

In May 2007, Fred Thompson left the cast of Law & Order to run for the Republican Party's 2008 nomination for President.[15] On the show, no reason is given for Branch's departure, and McCoy is chosen to serve out the remainder of his term.[16] In Branch's final scene, he suggests that McCoy might run for District Attorney in the future; McCoy says "I'm no politician, Arthur" and Branch replies, "Yeah... everybody says that."[17]

In October 2009,[18] Executive ADA Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) tells McCoy that the producers of a reality TV show set in Long Island want Branch to be a judge, where he will preside in a trial featuring the heads of two dysfunctional households who are both suspects in a murder.

Appearances on other TV seriesEdit

  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
    • Season Four
      • Episode 21: "Fallacy"
    • Season Five
      • Episode 2: "Manic"
      • Episode 4: "Loss"
      • Episode 5: "Serendipity"
      • Episode 8: "Abomination"
      • Episode 10: "Shaken"
    • Season Six
      • Episode 20: "Night"
      • Episode 23: "Goliath"
    • Season Seven
      • Episode 8: "Starved"
      • Episode 9: "Rockabye"
      • Episode 16: "Gone"
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent
    • Season Five
      • Episode 7: "In the Wee Small Hours, Part 2"
  • Conviction
    • Pilot episode


  1. ^ "About Fred Dalton Thompson, Fred Thompson Bio, Lawrenceburg Tennessee Hometown of Fred Thompson". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03.
  2. ^ a b "American Jihad". Law & Order. Season 13. Episode 1. October 2, 2002. NBC.
  3. ^ "Sheltered". Law & Order. Season 13. Episode 22. May 14, 2003. NBC.
  4. ^ "True Crime". Law & Order. Season 13. Episode 3. October 16, 2002. NBC.
  5. ^ "Maritime". Law & Order. Season 13. Episode 8. April 17, 2003. NBC.
  6. ^ "Identity". Law & Order. Season 14. Episode 6. November 5, 2003. NBC.
  7. ^ "The Dead Wives Club". Law & Order. Season 15. Episode 2. September 22, 2004. NBC.
  8. ^ "The Ring". Law & Order. Season 13. Episode 5. November 6, 2002. NBC.
  9. ^ "Shangri-La". Law & Order. Season 13. Episode 2. October 9, 2002. NBC.
  10. ^ "The Wheel". Law & Order. Season 13. Episode 9. December 11, 2002. NBC.
  11. ^ "Embedded". Law & Order. Season 14. Episode 8. November 19, 2003. NBC.
  12. ^ "Married with Children". Law & Order. Season 14. Episode 13. February 4, 2004. NBC.
  13. ^ "Rockabye". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 7. Episode 9. November 22, 2005. NBC.
  14. ^ "Ain't No Love". Law & Order. Season 15. Episode 13. January 12, 2005. NBC.
  15. ^ Associated Press and Cameron, Carl. "Fred Thompson Quits 'Law & Order,' Moves Closer to 2008 White House Bid" Archived 2007-08-20 at the Wayback Machine, Fox News (2007-05-31).
  16. ^ "Blinded". Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Season 9. Episode 7. November 13, 2007. NBC.
  17. ^ "The Family Hour". Law & Order. Season 7. Episode 22. May 15, 2007. NBC.
  18. ^ "Reality Bites". Law & Order. Season 20. Episode 4. October 16, 2009. NBC.