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The following are answers to rrspin.com questions for the Halifax County Superior Court judge’s race: 



Brenda Green Branch 


Halifax Community College, Certificate, Industrial Maintenance 

North Carolina Wesleyan College, BS, Justice and Public Policy 

North Carolina Central University School of Law, Juris Doctorate 


As a former prosecutor, I have presented all types of criminal cases to the court. 

I have served as the chief district court judge for 14 years, after being elected district court judge by the voters of Halifax County in 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020. 

I was also appointed to serve as chief district court judge by Chief Justice Sarah Parker in 2008 and Chief Justice Mark Martin in 2015 and retained as chief district court judge by Chief Justice Beasly in 2018 and retained most recently by our current Chief Justice Paul Newby in 2020. 

The chief justice is the highest judicial authority in the state for our judicial system. 

As a sitting judge, I have a solid knowledge of the law, our judicial processes and plans to improve our local judiciary as the resident superior court judge. 

As the chief district court judge, I have administrative experience which includes managing court schedules and personnel, training staff and issuing executive orders that better serve the public. 

Professional Affiliations

North Carolina State Bar, Halifax County Bar, Judicial District 6 Bar, North Carolina Bar Association Citizen Lawyer, Secretary North Carolina Conference of Chief District Court Judges 


I have lived in Halifax County since 1984 having moved here from Northampton County. I am married to George Branch Jr. from Northampton County. 

We have two adult children, Marquette and Alisa Branch. 

I am a lifelong member of Roanoke Chapel Baptist Church where I have served with the youth department and the prayer team. 

I am an active member and past president of the Roanoke Rapids Rotary Club and a member of Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce and a graduate of the chamber’s leadership class. 

I also serve as a board member for the Halifax Community College Male Mentoring Program Pride 

Political endorsements 

As a jurist, I am an independent candidate who is responsible for upholding the law and fair sentencing for all citizens and welcome the input and or suggestions for court improvements from all citizens. As such, I have not and will not seek endorsements. 

Why are you seeking this office and what makes you qualified to hold it if elected? 

I am seeking this office because I believe the citizens of Halifax County deserve a superior court judge with proven growth and maturity in judicial and decision-making experience. 

My experience on the bench and community involvement shows my ability to build and promote court improvement initiatives. 

During my years of service in district court, I have made decisions regarding the following as well as other matters: child custody, parental rights, juvenile placement, criminal matters, criminal and civil domestic matters, civil matters (less than $10,000), child support and determinations on felonies before they reach superior court.

One of the toughest challenges I had to navigate as chief included the merging of our district. My leadership was essential when deciding how to fulfill the legislative mandate to merge Halifax County with Northampton, Hertford and Bertie counties. 

While continuing to preside in courts across four counties, I also had the responsibility of deciding which courts to add or eliminate and when and if to close a court for those four counties. 

I regularly engage in decision-making regarding scheduling supervision for four chief magistrates and 13 magistrates. 

I also supervise six long-term staff members (zero turnover) and the placement of four judges across the four counties. I have gained invaluable experience by collaborating with four Clerks, four Sheriffs, six school systems and four boards of county commissioners for the last eight years. 

I believe this has helped me become an independent, experienced, decision-maker who has grown and is now ready to make decisions at the superior court level. 

This also makes me uniquely qualified, as the experience I have can only be gained from consistently making decisions in district court. 

During my tenure in district court, I realized a need for and implemented and/or retained the following programs: 

Truancy court — designated court days — reduces repeat offenses of school attendance violations

Teen court — after hours — reduces school cases in court 

School justice partnerships — each county has ongoing agreement — reduces minor student cases coming to court

One Court, One Judge Family Court Model — designated judge assignments — reduces cases being continued for later

Review of cases — Judges retaining cases to monitor offender progress in work or school

Family Drug Treatment Court — Halifax County — to assist parents outside of court

Internships — high school and college students 

Yearly continuing legal education classes for attorneys

Regular speaking engagements for schools — weekend and after hours — provide encouragement to students

Currently, there are not any programs at the Halifax County Superior Court level as we have in other superior court districts across the state. 

Therefore, the superior court warrants a judge with a proven record of being independent, fair and firm while creating and implementing court programs to serve the unique needs of the Halifax County citizens. 

I am that judge, with 14 years of judicial experience, who can and will implement similar, relevant and stronger programs and courts at the superior court level. 

Such courts and programs would include but not be limited to: Veteran Court, mediation sessions and criminal drug court. 

I would also seek funds from the Administrative Office of the Courts to employ a program manager to monitor the programs and a superior court coordinator to work with the clerks and Attorneys to set dockets for the Veteran and Drug courts. 

Do you identify as a Conservative, liberal or moderate? 

As a jurist, I don’t identify as either. I am an independent candidate who is responsible for upholding the law and fair sentencing for all citizens. 

I don’t believe the personal views of judges are to be considered in applying the law. 

However, as to sentencing, at any time, in any given case, the issues or facts may warrant a conservative, liberal or independent view. 

Therefore, to be fair, whether Democrat, Republican, independent or unaffiliated, I don’t believe a judge should adhere to one view when situations and issues vary and may require another. 

What is your first priority when elected to office? 

Our case backlog on our superior court level is currently a huge concern. 

Resolving this backlog to better serve defendants and victims is my first priority. 

There are a number of resources that are available to rid this problem that aren’t being pursued. I plan to utilize each resource available to implement programs and employ needed personnel to rid this backlog and develop systems to prevent it from recurring. 

For example, I would request two positions: Superior court program manager and superior court coordinator. 

Our NC Chief Justice has developed a tool kit that supports this request and mandates the team to work together to determine any internal changes needed to improve court services. 

The changes I would look to implement would include but not be limited to: 

One Judge, One Court Model in criminal court to monitor case continuances. 

Sometimes defendants will not meet the attorney at the office but wait until court. 

This uses court time, and the case is continued if the attorney discovers more evidence is needed or a witness or officer is needed. 

I would retain those cases to hear during my six months in the district as opposed to a visiting judge from outside of the district. 

Likewise, I would also set special sessions to use my time to clear these cases when the court in the assigned district finishes early.

Effective communication: Require more coordination and communication between DA and attorneys who practice in several counties or districts. 

Often the cases are continued due to attorneys not being available because of other court obligations in other counties, other courts or meetings. 

I understand the demand our local attorneys have and I will seek to work alongside them so they can continue to effectively practice and still manage our hectic superior court dockets. 

Effective collaboration: Require more coordination and communication between DA and law enforcement for officer training and work schedules. Officers do not set their training or schedules — sometimes they are called away for training and sometimes they are short-staffed and are needed on the road to patrol. 

Like other professional fields, it is difficult to recruit law enforcement officers to the area. 

Intra-office collaboration: Ongoing collaboration between the superior court and the district court to set opposite court dates and schedules to minimize court date conflicts between the courts. 

Productive sessions: Currently, superior court is scheduled for five days, at least twice a month. However, most sessions end after two days. 

These sessions are not being used to their max and effectively. As superior court judge, I plan to tackle the dockets by using each day and ensuring that every session is productive.

Better case management: I plan to evaluate each request to ensure that we are not seeing the same or similar behavior each time we are in session. 

For example, many times orders for arrest are stricken for the defendant to miss court again without legitimate reasons. 

Mismanagement like this creates more of the backlog we are facing. 

I would also implement veteran courts and criminal drug treatment courts with the assistance of the superior court program manager and case coordinator. 

What needs to be done to improve mental health services in Halifax County? What would be the role of the judge in the process? 

We are in need of mental health facilities for inpatient rehabilitation and mental health and drug addiction services. 

As chief district court judge, I spend a tremendous amount of time in court with repeat offenders with mental and drug issues, making phone calls to try to find placement or using my own review process to monitor the offenders’ progress. 

This of course prolongs court settings, but I believe it is warranted to properly address the issues of some of the citizens that I am elected to serve.

Although judges are not mandated to be involved, I believe the role of the judge could be to attend and participate in local leadership/citizens meetings after hours or when possible to share the issues we see in our courts. 

Such as, repeat offenders for minor offenses because the defendant is not properly medicated or his/her medications are not properly monitored so therefore increase the use of illegal drugs to self medicate. 

A Criminal Drug Treatment Court as they have in Durham, Alamance and other counties and as has been provided for in the Administrative Office of the Court’s budget for specialty courts would help this effort. 

Attending and participating in these meetings is not required for judges but would make the county leaders/citizens more aware of the issues and would be warranted as a caring citizen. This would be at any level of court. 

Being a superior court judge doesn’t mean we are above the issues and cannot be a part of helping the community and the leaders understand the issues and helping to find solutions at any after hours meetings or gatherings or whenever we can. 

Do you support the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes? Please explain why or why not? 

As a jurist, I am sworn to uphold the laws as they are written. Our esteemed legislatures are tasked with making/writing the laws. A judge's opinion of the laws should never have any sway in his/her judicial decision-making process. 

Do you support the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes? Please explain why or why not? 

As a jurist, I am sworn to uphold the laws as they are written. Our esteemed legislatures are tasked with making/writing the laws. A judge's opinion of the laws should never have any sway in his/her judicial decision-making process. 

Should Halifax County be reverted to a single judicial and prosecutorial district? Is this something that is possible? 

Although I am honored to serve Northampton, Hertford and Bertie counties, I believe the merger of Halifax County with these counties was very detrimental to the local judicial process. 

The caseload in Halifax County warrants its own district attorney. 

Likewise, the combined caseload in the other counties warrants the same. 

A separation of these counties into two districts would allow the district attorney in each district to give more direct attention to the training/recruitment of assistant district attorneys, offer more consistent consultation with the local law enforcement and more time to lobby the federal, state and local boards and commissions for grant funding for implementation of needed programs. This separation of districts would also allow the chief district court judge more availability to work with one district attorney, one superior court judge, one clerk and one board of commissioners in developing consistent policies that can be implemented across each of the judicial systems. 

Ultimately, this separation of districts would allow more consistent work on eliminating the backlog, implementing specialty courts like drug courts, mental health and veterans courts and monitoring jail cases and bond policies. 

The addition of a district court judge and more superior court sessions would also help to eliminate the backlog. 

The end result of these considerations would be a stronger local judicial system with a more credible reputation and safer neighborhoods. 

I believe with consistent communication about the issue to our state representatives, and our chief justice and director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, this is more than a possibility. 

How would you go about easing the backlog of cases currently in our court system? 

I intend to immediately upon being sworn in, request a meeting with the team as outlined above and have ongoing correspondence with the Administrative Office of the Courts and if necessary facilitate and collaborate on all efforts. 

While I have outlined some possible solutions above, there are situations that are sometimes unavoidable. 

In any given court setting there are multiple people involved that warrant continuing a case. 

The first setting is for the defendant to be advised of his/her rights. 

After that setting, other factors warrant continuing a case. 

The officer may be in training on a day set by the State Training Standards, the alleged victim may not be able to leave work or school, the aAttorney may be needed in another court in other counties or districts with older cases, attorneys, victims or officers may be on vacation or the witness may be reluctant to appear in court so must be subpoenaed. 

In some cases the defendant doesn't have a license to drive so can only meet his/her attorney on a court date when someone else is coming to court. 

In cases that are continued everyone is inconvenienced and in some cases people lose income. However, at any given time a defense attorney can ask for a speedy trial. 

This would serve notice to the judge and push the district attorney — only the district attorney’s office can place a case on the docket — to put a priority on the case.  

A blanket rule to deny the continuances in each case without considering the rights of all parties would not be in keeping with the fair and impartial intent of the American judicial system. 

In an effort to make our system as fair as possible, there are checks and balances and unavoidable constitutional issues with guaranteeing every party their day in court. 

To view this issue from the one-sided view of an attorney rather than a jurist ignores law and fairness and instead settles for boilerplate and speedy injustice to satisfy one party. 

However, in cases where there is plain lack of dedicated work to prosecute or defend the case, the continuance should be and is denied when I am presiding. 

I will continue to monitor such cases in this fashion when presiding in superior court.

Many in the general public have a misunderstanding of the way bonds work, not realizing they are not a form of punishment but a means to assure a defendant's appearance in court. Do you support an overhaul of the bond system? Do you believe they are adequate? 

Much has been said about magistrates and the bond process during this campaign. 

However, magistrates are robe-wearing judges and are duty-bound to uphold NC General Statute section 15A-534 which lists several factors they must consider when setting bonds. Bonds are meant to ensure the defendant will return to court. 

State law mandates that bonds are not to be used as punishment as the defendant has not been proven guilty at that stage of the case. 

State law also mandates the consideration of the defendant's family ties, employment, financial resources, character and mental condition. 

Whether a defendant is a repeat offender or has committed a violent act may be considered by the magistrate to increase the bond when there is strong evidence that he or she may pose a threat if released based on his or her record. 

This law was made clear recently in a federal class action lawsuit against the magistrates, chief district court judge, superior court judge and the sheriff in Alamance County. 

Allison, et al. v. Allen, et al, was filed November 12, 2019, claiming bail practices were unconstitutional. 

The parties subsequently agreed to a consent Order of Preliminary Injunction which was entered on May 8, 2020. 

Moreover, Article 16 NCGS 7A-171 governs the appointment of magistrates. 

Magistrates are nominated by the clerk of court. 

They are appointed by the superior court judge. 

Once hired, only their schedule is supervised by the chief district court judge. 

If there is a complaint, the chief district court judge takes the complaint and meets with the magistrate. 

The findings from the meeting are then turned over to the clerk and superior court judge. 

If there is a criminal charge the chief district court judge can suspend the magistrate. 

Otherwise, under Article 16 NCGS 7A-171, there aren’t any sanctioning authority with the chief district court judge. 

The bond policy is and has always been public. 

If a citizen or attorney has an ongoing problem with the magistrate setting the bonds too high or too low, they can, as with all complaints, reduce it to written form and mail or deliver it to the office of the chief district court judge. 

Although I have never had this happen, and never heard any complaints from attorneys until now, as chief district court judge, I will meet with the magistrate to make him or her aware of that complaint and forward the letter to the clerk and superior court judge. 

In any case, at any time, the district attorney may file a motion — they rarely do — to increase a defendant's bond in district or superior court, if that defendant is deemed to be a threat to the public. 

Likewise, defense attorneys may file motions — and often do — for bond reductions. 

The case and evidence must be put forward by the district attorney — ADA — or at the request of the defense attorney to the ADA. 

The officer in charge of the case or alleged victim must give sufficient evidence to the magistrate and/or the ADA must give sufficient evidence to the judge when the bond is set. 

This factor points to the need for the public to look at the quality of work performed by the DA and law enforcement before it looks to the judges. 

All of these factors are considered in an effort to comply with the mandates of the US and State Constitution that requires innocence before being proven guilty as opposed to guilty before being proven innocent.

How would you address the seemingly rising tide of youthful offenders committing violent crimes? What needs to be done to prevent this? 

I would urge the incoming chief district court judge to continue my work in the schools and the community. 

I would work with the chief to strengthen the programs and add more when possible. 

I would participate in meeting at the school as I have done in the past, to help stem the school to prison pipeline. I would also urge the county and help in any way I can to sponsor more recreation and parental support. 

Who has been your biggest influence in your career? 

Judge Paul McCoy, Judge Cy Grant and Judge Quinton Sumner. 

Please provide a brief summation of what the superior court system would be like under your leadership

Community Involvement: Under my leadership, the superior court would be an integral part of the community. It will be more than just a job or political post for me. I would participate in informational meetings with other community leaders as I have in the past. I would seek funding in Raleigh and locally for our court programs. I would strive to educate the citizens about our court system and the difference in district and superior court. 

Fair and impartial: I would continue to make fair and impartial decisions for everyone who appears before me. I would continue to make myself aware of new and changing laws and new and changing leadership locally and statewide. 

Productive court sessions: I would be available for more than just two-three days of court. I would immerse myself in rebranding our courts and making it more credible, effective and efficient. 

The superior court judge is responsible for making decisions that affect the community in many ways outside of the criminal court — including but not limited to ruling on property and civil cases, scheduling medical malpractice cases and ordering mediated settlement conferences for civil actions. 

I believe these responsibilities along with those criminal court decisions listed above require someone who is an independent, fair, mature and firm decision-maker who will be innovative and collaborative. 

While in district Court, I have grown in all of these ways.

Moreover, North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission Canon 7b(5) allows a district court judge to remain in the district court seat while campaigning for superior court. 

This allows the citizens the benefit of the judge’s experience at the next level of court. 

The superior court judgeship is more than just a job or political post, it is an integral and stabilizing part of the community. Experience and maturity counts and is needed in Halifax County Superior Court.