Ammi Burke’s behaviour ‘utterly appalling and egregious’, says judge

Court dismisses appeal over case against Workplace Relations Commission

The High Court was 'justified' in dismissing solicitor Ammi Burke’s case against the Workplace Relations Commission mid-hearing, the Court of Appeal has ruled. Photograph: Collins

The High Court was “justified” in dismissing solicitor Ammi Burke’s case against the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) mid-hearing, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

In a judgment for the court, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said he listened to an audio recording of the High Court hearing and concluded Ms Burke’s behaviour was “utterly appalling and egregious”.

As a practising solicitor, Ms Burke professes to take her duties as an officer to the court very seriously and “yet repeatedly indulges in the most contemptuous conduct when before the court in a deliberate and premeditated manner”, he said.

Her conduct was part of a “continuous and calculated pattern of behaviour”, not just on this occasion before the High Court, but over many days before the WRC and again before the Court of Appeal, he added.


Mr Justice Noonan said this was the type of “rare and exceptional circumstance” that justified the High Court’s Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger using her discretion to dismiss Ms Burke’s challenge to the WRC’s rejection of her claim of unfair dismissal from law firm Arthur Cox in late 2019.

The court dismissed the appeal.

Ms Burke’s WRC complaint alleging she was unfairly dismissed from Cox in late 2019 was dismissed due to persistent interruptions from the Burke family. Arthur Cox denied she was unfairly dismissed.

Ms Justice Bolger threw out her case in the middle of its hearing last May due to what the judge described as Ms Burke’s “blatant abuse of the court process”.

Last week, the Court of Appeal cut short an oral hearing of Ms Burke’s appeal of the High Court decision amid persistent protestations from Ms Burke over the judges’ earlier rejection of her application seeking the recusal of Mr Justice George Birmingham.

They said her grounds for seeking the recusal, including that the judge ruled against her imprisoned brother, Enoch Burke, did not “remotely approach the threshold to require or justify” the judge stepping aside.

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The judges concluded the oral hearing to determine the case based on written legal documents, as Ms Burke continued to re-agitate her recusal application.

In his judgment on Tuesday, Mr Justice Noonan said Ms Burke based her appeal on nine grounds, one of which related to her failed application asking Ms Justice Bolger to step aside due to an alleged apprehension of bias on her part.

He was satisfied she “failed by a wide margin” to demonstrate anything that might be regarded as establishing an objective bias on the part of the judge.

The judge said what occurred during the High Court hearing on May 4th, 2023, is “certainly beyond my experience” and “absolutely unacceptable”.

Her conduct was “calculated” to preclude the WRC and Arthur Cox from vindicating their right to a fair hearing, he said. She sought to prevent them making submissions, which is the “very antithesis of the due administration of justice and an affront to the rule of law”, he said.

Ms Burke “rather extraordinarily” suggested in her appeal that the High Court, in lieu of dismissing her claim, should have adjourned the hearing and excluded her from the court, Mr Justice Noonan said.

There is no basis upon which it could reasonably be said that the judge should have continued the case by excluding Ms Burke when she, as the claimant, had “manifestly brought about the collapse of the claim herself”, he said.

The right of access to the court is “not absolute and brings with it certain obligations”, he said.

The court process is available for people who seek to resolve genuine disputes and is not a “platform to enable parties to ventilate complaints or express views, opinions and beliefs beyond the immediate dispute”, he said.

He gave a provisional view that the WRC and Arthur Cox are entitled to their legal costs but said he will receive submissions if any party contends otherwise.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

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