New JCBA?president takes the reins Attorney admired for ?quiet and consistent? leadership style

 By Jo Mathis

Legal News
Jackson County Assistant Prosecutor Kathleen Branigan was a special education teacher in Jackson and Florida before she went to law school, hoping to eventually enter the field of special education law.
“I very much wanted to be an advocate for students who have special needs,” said Branigan, a Jackson native. “After I got into law school, I learned that was such a small niche area, it just wasn’t necessarily going to be what I started out in.”
Seven years out of law school, however, Branigan can see that it’s all turning out well.
“In the prosecutor’s office, I’m still able to advocate for the vulnerable population,” she said. “I found that a lot of things I learned as a teacher have helped me in my legal profession, especially as a prosecutor. I’m still am very passionate about cases involving children and cases involving vulnerable populations.”
One of her assignments at the prosecutor’s office is elder law abuse or fraud, so any of those cases are routed to her.
“It’s really been taking knowledge I’ve learned at one level and applying it in a different way,” she said. 
Branigan grew up with three sisters, and now has two nieces and a nephew in the area.
Living in Florida for three years made her appreciate even more the importance of living close to family.
“It’s important that I know my nieces and nephew and that they know me,” she said.
By chance, she heard about a law clerk opening with Judge John McBain.
“He is very pro-hiring from the community,” she said. “What caught his interest about my resume is that I was from Jackson.”
Her next job in Jackson was working as a probate register for Judge Diane Rappleye.
Then last December, she became an assistant prosecutor.
Branigan recently worked with Assistant Prosecutor Steve Idema and Detective Brett Stiles of the City of Jackson Police Department in the case against Marlon Thomas, Jr., in the shooting death of Rakiesh Brown. The jury returned a guilty verdict of second degree murder and felony firearm.
“You obviously see a lot of the negative things that happen in the community, but it’s also an opportunity to help victims of crime,” she said. “Through that, you can pull out some positives.  It is something you’re going to take home sometimes if you genuinely care about your cases. You can’t help but do that. But there are definitely days when you help someone and you feel great about it.”
Branigan was recently elected president of the Jackson County Bar Association.
“Katie has a quiet and consistent leadership style that I admire,” said outgoing president Rick Mills.  “She seems to get along with everybody and can always be counted on to get the job done.”
Branigan took some tips from Mills during his leadership, and said she was impressed by how involved he is in the community, and the way he constantly had new ideas for directions the bar could take.
“As far as next year’s plan, we’re going to continue to work on member involvement,” she said. 
Branigan said she was disappointed that only about 30 JCBA members showed up for the recent annual meeting and election of officers, but she suspects vacation schedules played a part, and that next year the meeting may be moved to earlier in the summer.
For the first time, the group met in the Granery at the Ella Sharp Museum, which was a nice change, she said.
Branigan said it’s important to be involved in the JCBA because being involved in local organizations helps build the Jackson community.
“Through networking and building relationships with other professionals in the community and making our organization’s presence known,” she said, “we are laying a foundation to draw young professionals to Jackson and offer professional and social support to them.”

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