As the new counsel for the New York City Police Department, Douglass Maynard, a former partner at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, views his office as a front-line defender of civil liberties and constitutional rights.

“I really think our mission is a civil rights mission,” Maynard said. “Ensuring the public safety is the primary civil right. Everything else is dependent on that. I don’t see it as a conflict, but a balance of the various interests society cherishes.”

Douglass Maynard
Rick Kopstein/NYLJ

Maynard is the third consecutive deputy commissioner for legal matters to bring an Ivy League pedigree into the office. Neither Maynard (Yale College) nor S. Andrew Schaffer (Harvard Law School) nor Stephen Hammerman (University of Pennsylvania) ever wore a policeman’s badge. Maynard and Schaffer are former federal prosecutors; Hammerman was vice chairman of the board at Merrill Lynch.

“The NYPD is the nation’s biggest police department in the most complex and demanding environment in the world,” Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in an email. “These days, the leadership of its legal bureau requires talent second to none, someone with outstanding academic and professional qualifications, matched only by experience and judgment. Doug Maynard has all that and more, and the Police Department and the city at-large are lucky to have him.”

The deputy commissioner for legal matters oversees a staff of 150, including 75 lawyers—many of them former police officers—whose duties range from bringing enforcement actions in nuisance abatement matters to accompanying police on the street and providing on-site assistance. The position pays $200,984 a year.

NYPD lawyers are routinely deployed to provide on-the-spot advice in matters of civil disobedience and other large-scale, ongoing operations where officers may need guidance on where a demonstration strays beyond the limits of free speech and into criminal territory, or when an inquiry becomes a stop or a stop becomes a seizure. They are also utilized, for example, when the city wants to shut down a bar serving underage patrons or a grocery selling marijuana under the counter.

“There are lawyers involved in criminal investigations, lawyers handling civil matters,” Maynard said. “There are lawyers dealing with legislative affairs, lawyers involved with licensing and gun permits, and there is an enforcement unit involved in nuisance abatement cases. And there are lawyers providing ongoing, continuing advice to the commissioner and mayor on different police matters.”

Maynard said Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo’s office handles much of the defensive litigation the NYPD confronts on a daily basis. He said the in-house office works hand-in-glove with the city’s legal department.

A Connecticut native, Maynard, 53, studied philosophy at Yale before attending New York University School of Law.

“At the time, I was very focused on logic and scientific philosophy—Bertrand Russell and those guys—which intrigued me with its precision and focus on the basic truth. But at end of the day I found it to be without much content and way too scholastic for me,” Maynard said. “I’d probably be a history major if I could do it again.”

Maynard was steered into law after spending a summer working with the federal defender service in Washington, D.C., as a student.

“I think it was the process of investigating, understanding what happened in a case that appealed to me,” Maynard said. “I found that process fascinating, and I greatly admired the lawyer I worked with. I was impressed by the importance of the relationship between the client and the lawyer. It all seemed very meaningful to me.”

Maynard was admitted to the bar in 1987 and spent a few years with Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District. Between 1990 and 1996, he prosecuted a number of high-profile Russian organized crime cases.

In 1996, Maynard went to Time Inc. as associate general counsel, handling libel and commercial cases before joining Akin Gump in 2002. There, Maynard had a varied practice, ranging from antitrust to white-collar criminal defense. He moved to One Police Plaza on Jan. 7.

“It wasn’t anything I was looking for, but the opportunity to work with Commissioner Kelly and this department was too great to pass up,” Maynard said. “As I am learning every day, this is truly a world-class organization, with high standards of excellence and engaged in very important work.”

First Amendment Background

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said from her perspective the most important quality in a police department lawyer is “a firm grounding in civil rights and civil liberties and a thorough understanding of what policing and public safety entails.”

Lieberman said individual rights should not be viewed as subordinate to public protection, “an approach that has gotten us into trouble historically.” She said she is hopeful that Maynard’s background as a First Amendment attorney with Time Inc. will reflect an abiding respect for free-speech rights.

“Anyone who is giving legal advice to the NYPD is bound to understand and respect the fundamental obligation to ensure that the police department acts in accordance with such core values as due process, privacy, liberty,” Lieberman said. “Hopefully, [Maynard's] First Amendment background will help guide the police department toward protest policies and practices that respect and cherish the right to protest.”

Schaffer, a professor at New York University School of Law before, during and after his stint with the city, said the biggest challenge facing his successor is monitoring an ever-shifting legal landscape.

“The most challenging part of the job is keeping abreast of developments that affect the [police] department and the city on a daily basis,” Schaffer said. “Court decisions happen frequently, and you have to analyze them and see what the impact is. It is very important to give advice not only as to what is allowed, but what is not allowed. Police have to balance between protecting civil rights and protecting public safety. It is doable lawfully, and it is very important that it be done lawfully.”

Schaffer said the best part of the job is working with Kelly.

“He is an outstanding individual,” Schaffer said. “He is extraordinarily intelligent. He has an incredible memory and an incredible attention span. In eight years, I never saw him lose his concentration. He is disciplined. He is principled; I have never seen him lie or exaggerated. He sticks to the facts. He is very tough in the best sense of the word.”

Maynard said his goal is to meet the high standards of the commissioner and the traditions of the NYPD.

“I really would like to live up to the standard of excellence I have seen here and provide the best support we can to make sure the department can operate as effectively as possible,” Maynard said.