Ammi Burke loses judicial review after talking over judge and counsel

Judge apologises to barristers for Arthur Cox and Workplace Relations Commission over ‘unacceptable, appalling situation’

Solicitor Ammi Burke: Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger said the court was 'horrified that any litigant, and in particular a qualified solicitor, would conduct themselves in this manner'. Photograph: Collins

Solicitor Ammi Burke has lost her challenge to the rejection of her claim of unfair dismissal by law firm Arthur Cox following her refusal to stop 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 she said was “undoubtedly an abuse of process”.

She will 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 made her ruling as Ms Burke was continuously repeating her complaint, at a raised volume, that the court was “litigating the case of Arthur Cox and the WRC”. She was unhappy that the judge supplied printed copies of case law on Thursday afternoon that the judge said was cited in submissions by the WRC and Arthur Cox.

Reciting from a piece of paper, Ms Burke relentlessly 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.

Arthur Cox’s senior counsel Peter Ward had urged, as the loud oration continued in the background, 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 her client was supporting the dismissal application.

Ms Justice Bolger asked for legal 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 throughout 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 counsel permission to raise her voice to be heard.

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

Prior to the disruption, Ms Donnelly said the court could not give “credence” to Ms Burke’s claim that it is legitimate for a litigant to disrupt proceedings if she is dissatisfied with a ruling.

It was “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 was also “no basis” 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, Ms Donnelly said.

Mr Baneham had rejected Ms Burke’s complaint that she was unfairly dismissed from Arthur Cox in November 2019. In his April 2022 decision, he said he had inquired into her claim but that 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.

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, instructed by Daniel Spring & Co, 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.

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

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is High Court Reporter with The Irish Times