High Court dismisses Ammi Burke's case due to 'appalling' conduct

Referencing Ms Burke's repeated outbursts, the judge said the court was "horrified that any litigant, and in particular a qualified solicitor, would conduct themselves in this manner".
High Court dismisses Ammi Burke's case due to 'appalling' conduct

High Court reporters

Solicitor Ammi Burke’s challenge to the rejection of her claim of unfair dismissal from law firm Arthur Cox has been dismissed at the High Court.

It follows her refusal to cease reciting her objections while other lawyers were attempting to speak.

Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger granted an application from the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and Arthur Cox to dismiss the case in its entirety due to Ms Burke’s conduct, which was “undoubtedly an abuse of process”.

She would give a written ruling explaining her decision at a later stage, but she gave an indicative view that the WRC and Arthur Cox were entitled to their full legal costs

The judge apologised to lawyers representing the WRC and Arthur Cox for having to endure the “unacceptable, appalling situation”.

“The court is horrified that any litigant, and in particular a qualified solicitor, would conduct themselves in this manner before the court,” she said.

The judge was speaking while Ms Burke was continuously repeating her complaint, at a raised volume, that the court was “litigating the case of Arthur Cox and the WRC”.

'God will judge you'

Ms Burke was unhappy about the judge having supplied printed copies of case law the judge said was cited in submissions by the WRC and Arthur Cox.

Reciting from a piece of paper, Ms Burke repeatedly asked the judge to take back the printed copies. Two of her brothers, Josiah and Isaac, and her mother, Martina, sat quietly in the row behind her.

However, Martina Burke joined Ms Burke in telling the judge “God will judge you” after the judge said she was dismissing the case.

As the loud oration continued in the background, Mr Ward urged the court to dismiss the case on account of Ms Burke’s “deliberate and conscious obstruction of the administration of justice” following “fair warning” from the court.

“This behaviour we are being subjected to is precisely the behaviour the adjudication officer was subjected to by Ms Burke and her mother for an entire day,” he said.

Catherine Donnelly, senior counsel for the WRC, said she tends to adopt Mr Ward’s submissions.

Ms Justice Bolger asked for authorities that would guide the court on whether it is possible to dismiss a judicial review case due to an applicant’s conduct. Mr Ward said the situation was “probably unprecedented”.

The judge left the courtroom four times on Thursday due to Ms Burke persisting to speak over her and counsel.

Earlier, Ms Donnelly had been attempting to make submissions for the WRC.

Ms Justice Bolger said it was “appalling” that Ms Donnelly had to speak while Ms Burke was continuing to voice her discontent. She gave Ms Donnelly permission to raise her voice to be heard.

However, the judge paused the hearing after the stenographer indicated she could not transcribe what Ms Donnelly was saying. When the judge returned several minutes later, Ms Burke resumed her speech, resulting in Mr Ward’s application for the proceedings to be dismissed.


Earlier, Ms Donnelly said the court cannot give “credence” to the claim it is legitimate for a litigant to disrupt proceedings if she is dissatisfied with a ruling, counsel for the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has submitted.

It is “startling”, she said, that Ms Burke argued it was reasonable for her and her mother, Martina, to repeatedly ask WRC adjudication officer Kevin Baneham to reverse his refusal to summon two witnesses and to order law firm Arthur Cox to disclose certain emails Ms Burke wanted.

There is an obligation on litigants to abide by rulings, and a WRC officer is entitled to dismiss a claim due to obstructive conduct, she said.

There is also “no basis” Ms Donnelly added, for the court to conclude that the WRC’s guidance is unreasonable, unfair or beyond the WRC’s powers, as is contended by Ms Burke.

Mr Baneham rejected Ms Burke’s complaint that she was unfairly dismissed from Arthur Cox in November 2019.

He said, in his April 2022 decision, he had inquired into her claim, but the hearing could not proceed due to persistent interruptions by members of the Burke family.

Ms Burke, of Castlebar, Co Mayo, submitted to the High Court on Thursday morning that it was “not at all unreasonable” for her and her mother to repeatedly ask the officer to conduct the hearing lawfully, and it was “reasonable” for them to maintain that Arthur Cox should be required to disclose the emails.

Ms Burke asked the judge to quash the WRC’s April 2022 decision and to remit her unfair dismissal claim to a different adjudication officer for fresh consideration.

Ms Burke has claimed she had a faultless record during her time at the law firm from May 2016 until she was fired without warning in November 2019.

Opposing her case at the WRC, Arthur Cox, represented by Mr Ward and Mairéad McKenna SC, said she received three months’ pay in lieu of notice and a €70,000 ex gratia payment.

The firm accepted reviews of her employment were positive, but certain exchanges she was involved in led to a breakdown of trust and confidence.

Last Wednesday, Ms Justice Bolger refused to recuse herself from hearing the case.

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