News Releases
January 18, 2017

Boston Bar Association Reacts to SJC Decision in Bridgeman v. District Attorney

Press Release

“Today, the Supreme Judicial Court took a significant step toward a comprehensive resolution of more than 24,000 cases that were tainted by the actions of Annie Dookhan, disgraced drug-lab chemist,” said BBA President Carol Starkey of Conn Kavanaugh. “We are pleased that the SJC recognized that a different course of action, more than five years after the scandal first came to light, is necessary to protect the fairness and integrity of our criminal justice system.”

“Our shared core values of access to justice and the fair administration of justice compelled us, as an association, to call for a “global remedy” vacating all outstanding drug convictions where Dookhan was the primary or secondary chemist. For far too long, thousands of Massachusetts residents have lived under a cloud created by the misconduct of a rogue state employee, carrying a criminal record that may have prevented them from securing jobs, housing, benefits, and even legal immigration status. While it is not the global remedy that the BBA advocated for in our amicus brief and that Justice Geraldine Hines called for in her dissent, today’s decision holds out the potential for lifting that cloud and allowing the Dookhan defendants to move forward.”

BBA Amicus Committee co-chairs Anthony Scibelli of Barclay Damon and Elizabeth Ritvo of Brown Rudnick, who co-authored the BBA brief, said: “Our brief argued that the burden should rest with the Commonwealth to show that these adverse dispositions should stand. The Court agreed with that assessment, calling on the district attorneys to exercise their discretion to vacate and dismiss with prejudice as many Dookhan cases as possible to ‘substantially reduce the number of relevant Dookhan defendants.’ We share the expectation expressed in Justice Barbara Lenk’s concurrence that the majority’s three-step protocol will expeditiously produce a suitable outcome for all affected defendants.”

The BBA’s amicus brief urged the Commonwealth’s highest court to vacate all outstanding drug convictions among the more than 24,000 cases in which disgraced drug-lab employee Annie Dookhan was the primary or secondary chemist. This follows on the findings and recommendations of our 2014 Drug Lab Crisis Task Force Report which called for the prompt resolution of open criminal cases related to Dookhan’s misconduct as well as increased and improved oversight of drug labs.

Read more about the Bridgeman case and our brief in our Issue Spot blog post: BBA Amicus Advocates for Resolution in Dookhan Scandal .