Molly Griffard

  • Hosted by The Legal Aid Society
  • Sponsored by Venture Justice Fund
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school New York University School of Law
  • Issue area Criminal Justice Reform
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Molly represented low-income New Yorkers seeking accountability for police misconduct through civil rights lawsuits, administrative complaints, and policy reforms.

Low-income people, especially people of color, face a greater risk of being targeted, harassed, and having their rights violated by law enforcement than other New Yorkers. Providing individual representation in police misconduct matters has the twofold impact of directly aiding clients while also surfacing data that is otherwise difficult to collect. This data can assist civil rights attorneys in identifying patterns of rights violations, assist public defenders in identifying officers with a history of misconduct and inform criminal justice reform efforts. As a result, individual representation can build momentum toward systemic change.

Molly learned to question the fairness of the criminal system when she became involved in anti-death penalty work as a high school student in St. Louis, Missouri. In the following years, she was confronted with the stark injustice of the use of force against people of color by police, which inspired her work to seek accountability and to end a culture of impunity that allows abuse by law enforcement to continue.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Molly:

  • Worked with partners at Communities United for Police Reform to secure the passage of key police reform legislation in New York State, including the repeal of Police Secrecy Law Section 50-a and the passage of the Police Statistics and Transparency (STAT) Act, ushering in a new era of police transparency in New York.
  • Launched the Cop Accountability Clinic to assist New Yorkers with filing complaints against NYPD officers who have committed acts of misconduct through both the Civilian Complaint Review Board and the Comptroller’s Notice of Claim process.
  • Released a report on racial disparities in the NYPD’s policing of social distancing in New York, leading to Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Shea to adjust their policy on social distancing enforcement.
  • Secured a large settlement and the termination of an abusive police officer in Medina v. City of New York, Dkt. No. 1:19-VV-09412-AJN (SDNY), challenging the NYPD’s unlawful practice of using excessive force in low-level, broken windows policing encounters, on behalf of plaintiff Tomas Medina, who was brutally assaulted by an officer stemming from a noise complaint.
  • Litigated complex standing, qualified immunity, and equal protection issues in Holden v. Port  Authority Police Department, 17-CV-02192 (SDNY), a case challenging the Port Authority Police Department’s discriminatory practice of using plainclothes police officers in men’s bathrooms to target gay men with false accusations of public lewdness.
  • Joined the team litigating Belle v. City of New York, Dkt. No. 1:19-CV-02673-VEC (SDNY) as co-counsel challenging the NYPD’s practice of digital stop-and-frisk, representing clients who were unlawfully seized in order for officers to conduct warrant checks and other digital searches without individualized reasonable suspicion.
  • Joined the team advocating for the plaintiffs in the federal monitorship of Davis v. City of New York, Dkt. No. 1:10-CV-00699-AT (SDNY), a case that challenged the NYPD’s unconstitutional stops and arrests of New York City Housing Authority residents and their visitors for criminal trespass without sufficient evidence based on their race and/or ethnicity.
  • Represented immigrant churro vendors who were targeted by the NYPD during their aggressive crack- down on MTA violations in resolving their Transit Adjudication Bureau summonses and in the process of reclaiming their churro carts which were seized by the NYPD.
  • Collected, reviewed, and analyzed officer misconduct information, including lawsuits, adverse credibility findings, CCRB complaints, and news reports, for individual criminal and civil cases and media advocacy.
  • Published a law review article in the Fordham Urban Law Journal evaluating the NYPD’s claims that its latest predictive policing tool—Patternizr—is “bias-free.”

Next Steps

After her fellowship, Molly will remain at the Legal Aid Society as a Staff Attorney continuing to work on police accountability issues.


Stop and Frisk Never Really Ended. Now It's Gone Digital.

NYPD Loses Appeal to Keep Disciplinary Records Under Lock & Key

Lawsuit Alleging Port Authority Police Targeted Gay Men Heads to Trial

Video shows NYPD detective put man in what appears to be banned chokehold Video shows NYPD detective put man in what appears to be banned chokehold. (Credit: Legal Aid Society handout) LOCAL NEWS ‘I could have died’: NYC, former NYPD officer settle apparent chokehold case for $567,500

Covington Helps Man Settle NYC Police Brutality Case

NYC to pay more than $500G in NYPD chokehold and Taser case

Federal appeals court turns back challenge to disclosure of state law enforcement disciplinary records

New York City Jails Have an Alarmingly High Infection Rate, According to an Analysis by The Legal Aid Society

The Challenge of Changing Police Culture

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