The state’s highest court will hear arguments in November in a high-stakes legal battle over whether to dismiss more than 24,000 convictions tainted by former chemist Annie Dookhan.
Justice Margot Botsford of the Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday referred the matter to the full panel. She said in June that she would take that action, after the parties submitted additional legal filings.
The ACLU of Massachusetts and the state’s public defender agency are asking the SJC to throw out more than 24,000 convictions tied to Dookhan, or at least set a deadline for resolving the cases.
Several top prosecutors, including Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett, oppose the mass dismissals.
Dookhan, a former chemist responsible for testing suspected drug samples at a now-shuttered lab in Jamaica Plain, served prison time for tampering with evidence and filing false reports in a scandal that rocked the state’s criminal justice system.
Hundreds of so-called Dookhan defendants have successfully challenged their convictions, and the state has spent millions reviewing cases and holding special hearings.
Aaron Wolfson, a spokesman for the ACLU of Massachusetts, on Wednesday reiterated the group’s contention that most defendants in the affected counties “have not even been notified that Dookhan handled their case, let alone had the opportunity to challenge their conviction in court.”
Wolfson said in an e-mail that reviewing convictions on an individual basis will “result in a denial of due process to thousands of people, who have waited long enough already.”
Representatives for Conley and Blodgett said Wednesday that the SJC has rejected mass dismissals in related proceedings.
Blodgett called that option “extreme and entirely unwarranted in light of the comprehensive and carefully-crafted system of remedies that has already been established to help defendants affected by Dookhan’s misconduct.”
Jake Wark, Conley’s spokesman, said Suffolk prosecutors have identified every affected defendant in the county “and provided that information to the Trial Court and the defense bar” and that prosecutors plan to inform defendants as well, since the defense bar has not done so.
Public defenders contend they lack the resources to track down all affected clients.