MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A judge ruled Wednesday that thousands of rape victims in the city of Memphis can join in one class action lawsuit.

It’s a case WREG has covered extensively since first uncovering the rape kit backlog more than a decade ago. 

There was happiness in the hallway outside court Wednesday afternoon. Attorneys told us the ruling has been nine years in the making. They acknowledged the time spent fighting for this win but also acknowledged this was a big case.

“The class is certified so it’s a question of how many not hundreds but how many thousands of persons will be included into the class,” said attorney Daniel Lofton.

Judge Gina Higgins spoke to the room Wednesday saying there has been much going on behind the scenes and cited the pandemic.

In part of her lengthy ruling about the victims and the backlog of rape kits this issue has centered around, Judge Higgins said “The city invited them to submit to sexual assault rape kits, a very intimate and personal, invasive procedure. The city involved them in the city’s duty to the public with an expectation that the city would do more for them.”

Celia Reynolds, who has been involved throughout the years, said she’s happy after years of waiting for this moment.

“It shouldn’t have took this long. It shoulda been done before now and all of these women have suffered years of pain, anxiety, depression. They just don’t know how much agony we have been through with this. By being classified, I am very, very happy,” Reynolds said.

“It’s been a long time and the reason it’s bittersweet is because it’s been so long,” said Debby Dalhoff, another woman involved in the case. “We deserve the certification so hopefully now we can get to the end. We know that’s probably going to take some more time but we’re going to get there, we’re going to get there.”

As for when to have another court date to move forward, that’s unclear. The victim’s attorney said there are now a lot of new things to start working on.