Ammi Burke complains to Judicial Council over judge who rejected complaint

Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger handled judicial review proceedings by Ms Burke against Workplace Relations Commission

Ammi Burke had taken proceedings against the Workplace Relations Commission over her dismissal from law firm Arthur Cox. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Solicitor Ammi Burke has made a complaint to the Judicial Council about a judge who rejected her complaint alleging she was unfairly dismissed from law firm Arthur Cox.

Ms Burke has also made complaints to the president of the High Court and the Minister for Justice arising from Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger’s handling of judicial review proceedings taken by Ms Burke against the Workplace Relations Commission over its handling of her complaint. Arthur Cox was a notice party to the proceedings.

A WRC adjudication officer dismissed the complaint after a hearing which featured multiple interruptions by Ms Burke and her mother Martina objecting to the officer’s refusal to summons certain witnesses from the law firm for cross-examination and to direct discovery of emails.

Last week, Ms Justice Bolger dismissed Ms Burke’s case against the WRC following the solicitor’s refusal to stop reciting her objections while other lawyers were attempting to speak.

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Ms Justice Bolger granted an application by lawyers for the WRC and Arthur Cox to dismiss the case in its entirety due to Ms Burke’s conduct, which the judge described as “undoubtedly an abuse of process”.

She will give a written ruling explaining her decision at a later stage.

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, in loud tones, that the court was “litigating the case of Arthur Cox and the WRC”.

Reciting from a piece of paper, Ms Burke relentlessly asked the judge to take back copies of a legal case which the judge had had printed earlier.

Her mother Martina 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 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, supported the dismissal application.

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

WRC adjudication officer Kevin Baneham had rejected Ms Burke’s complaint 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.

In submissions last week, Ms Burke told Ms Justice Bolger 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 remit her unfair dismissal claim to a different adjudication officer for fresh consideration.

Ms Burke has claimed she had an unblemished record during her time at the law firm from May 2016 until she was dismissed 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 that reviews of her employment were positive, but said that certain exchanges she was involved in led to a breakdown of trust and confidence.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times