Arguments before the full body of the state’s highest court have just concluded in a case brought by the Massachusetts ACLU, which asked the court to throw out 24,000 criminal drug cases.

The ACLU’s lawsuit is unprecedented in the number of cases that it is asking the Supreme Judicial Court to dismiss due to deliberate mishandling by former chemist Annie Dookhan, who tested the drugs in those cases and in 2013 pleaded guilty to faking test results and tampering with evidence.

ACLU lawyers asked seemingly skeptical Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court judges to dismiss all 24,000 cases in a lawsuit brought by three plaintiffs, Bridgeman v. District Attorney for Suffolk County. The petitioners were among those convicted of state drug charges. But evidence in those cases was later found to be tainted due to deliberate mishandling by former chemist Annie Dookhan. 

This is a second go around for the ACLU. Earlier, the SJC rejected legal efforts to have the convictions thrown out but agreed to hear arguments after learning that thousands of cases were nowhere near close to being reprocessed. Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley’s Office, which is the main defendant, says each situation should be decided on its own merit, case by case.  But the ACLU argues to do that would take the court well into the next decade to process.