Salary: $109,183 per year • Term: Four years • Tasks: Oversees the largest law firm in the state with more than 300 employees and 100 attorneys. They prosecute more than 30,000 criminal cases each year. • District: Encompasses Bernalillo County
She’s led the DA’s Office for three terms and says she’s got work to finish. Her goal for the next four years, Brandenburg says, is to find substantive ways to keep people from re-offending once they’re out of lockup. Drug court, a reentry program, community involvement—she emphasizes all of these as possible means to that end. There aren’t enough treatment options for drug offenders, not even for juveniles, she says. That’s really the time to intervene, she adds, before someone’s been using for three decades and has a much harder time finding another path. She’d also like to focus on changing the county’s culture to prevent DWI. Mandatory sentencing isn’t always a good thing, she says, though sometimes it’s helpful, like when someone has prior offenses or a firearm is involved and that ups the charges. But one size doesn’t always fit all, she adds.
The conundrum that is Brandenburg—or maybe the whole District Attorney’s Office. What should be the goal of public prosecutors? To lock people up? Or seek justice? Brandenburg’s office is pretty good at locking people up. Maybe a little too good, her opponent during the primaries indicated. Folks are sometimes wrongfully jailed, said Jennifer Romero, or sentenced on inflated charges. The Alibi has reported on a couple of instances where people were imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. Maybe those men were just casualties in the war on crime. Or maybe the DA’s Office needs to ensure that when it’s working to convict someone, all of the evidence has been processed and points to a solid conclusion. For all that jailing the DA accomplishes, police officers involved in shootings get an easy pass through the justice system. A Journal article pointed out during the primaries that since the ’80s, no officer-involved shooting was found to be unjustified. So the process of putting officers before investigative grand juries was suspended in late May. We’ll see if a more fair system emerges. Brandenburg’s guaranteed a fourth term as she’s challenged by write-in candidate Chris Sturgess (R), who refused our request for an interview and doesn’t appear to be campaigning. Still, we can’t endorse her. We like her emphasis on preventing folks from returning to jail and hope in her next term, Brandenburg keeps her eye on the right prize: justice.