High Court: Ammi Burke’s challenge to WRC hearing dismissed for ‘extraordinarily unusual and unprecedented’ conduct

High Court: Ammi Burke’s challenge to WRC hearing dismissed for 'extraordinarily unusual and unprecedented' conduct

The High Court has dismissed Ammi Burke’s challenge to a Workplace Relations Commission decision based on the “extraordinarily unusual and unprecedented nature of the applicant’s conduct”. Ms Burke had brought a WRC complaint against her former employer Arthur Cox LLP alleging that she was unfairly dismissed from the firm.

Delivering judgment in the case, Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger held that Ms Burke’s conduct was “devoid of any attempts at persuasion and appeared to be designed solely to collapse the hearing before the court”. It was held that the court had the right to retain control of hearings before it and was entitled to dismiss proceedings where a party’s conduct amounted to an abuse of process.


Ms Burke had brought judicial review proceedings against the WRC following a hearing into her complaint of unfair dismissal in April 2020. The WRC claim was dismissed following several warnings that Ms Burke’s conduct at the hearing was highly unsatisfactory.

Ms Burke’s judicial review proceedings sought to quash the dismissal of her WRC claim and also sought various declaratory relief regarding the decisions made by the adjudication officer in the course of the hearing. The essential argument was that the adjudication officer adopted an adversarial approach to the claim which was contrary to law.

The substantive application for judicial review was heard on 2 May 2023. The full day was taken up by Ms Burke’s application for the trial judge to recuse herself. This application was refused in a judgment the following morning. Ms Burke immediately challenged the decision and sought to repeat points made in the recusal application.

The court attempted to move on to the substantive hearing. Ms Burke then claimed that the court was interrupting her by raising queries as to what documents Ms Burke was referring to, missing pages from the book of authorities and asking the applicant to ensure that her family members did not speak on her behalf.

Ms Burke also claimed that the WRC’s submissions came close to misleading the court, that the judge shared in laughter with opposing counsel and that the adjudication officer had followed directions from Arthur Cox’s counsel to break the law. As Ms Burke was not satisfied with the manner in which the court dealt with the hearing, she began to speak loudly over everyone, which caused the court to rise on several occasions.

On 4 May 2023, Ms Burke made an application to amend the court’s judgment in relation to the recusal application which was to be heard at 2pm. However, Ms Burke ran well over time to make submissions in her substantive case, so the court decided (on the application of the notice party) to hear the respondents’ submissions and adjourn the slip rule application.

It was also determined that the slip rule application had to be made on notice, grounded on affidavit as it was not a consent application. Ms Burke nevertheless attempted to pursue the application and, from there, “matters deteriorated”. Counsel for the respondents was invited to speak over Ms Burke.

Ms Justice Bolger had also raised a query during the hearing in relation to Walsh v. Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform [2019] IESC 15, [2020] 1 I.R. 488. The case had been cited in the WRC’s determination and addressed the conduct of court users, including the obligation to abide by decisions with which they did not agree. The court wished to ensure that Ms Burke had the benefit of reading the entire case.

Ms Burke took exception to this, stating that it was unusual for case law to be handed in during a hearing. At this point, Ms Burke began speaking over the judge and made it impossible for the trial to continued. She continued to “shout her objections whilst pounding the lectern”. The hearing was “descending into chaos”, with the stenographer being unable to properly record the proceedings. Ms Burke also shouted her objections from a script.

High Court

In light of these actions, the court acceded to an application by the WRC and Arthur Cox to dismiss the proceedings. Ms Burke did not make any submissions to the contrary, instead continuing her “loud objections”.

The court outlined that Ms Burke’s conduct was “appalling” and was “horrified” that a qualified solicitor would conduct herself in that manner. Although Ms Burke was given another opportunity to behave, she continued shouting. Her conduct was “devoid of any attempts at persuasion and appeared to be designed solely to collapse the hearing before the court”. As such, the court dismissed the proceedings.

In a written judgment delivered on 26 June 2023, Ms Justice Bolger provided a detailed explanation for her reasons to dismiss the case. The court outlined that the High Court may dismiss judicial review proceedings pursuant to its inherent jurisdiction (see De Roiste v. Minister for Defence [2001] IESC 4, [2001] 1 I.R. 190; G.M. v I.M. [2023] IEHC 95). Further, it was noted that a court must have regard to an applicant’s conduct and retained a discretion to refuse an application if the conduct was such to disentitle an applicant to relief (see Abenglen Properties Ltd v. Dublin Corporation [1984] I.R. 381; Morgan v. Labour Court and Ors. [2022] IEHC 361).

Ms Justice Bolger also emphasised the constitutional right of all litigants to a fair hearing and the duty of the court to protect this right. Once a decision was made, a court must be allowed to move on, subject to any legitimate challenge. A litigant who is unhappy with a ruling will have to wait until the hearing is finalised before invoking an appeal.

All court users must allow a court to proceed with its business, the court said. The court cited the Walsh decision in which it was held that the disruption of court proceedings was not “speaking truth to power”. Instead, a refusal to accept rulings and interrupting court proceedings amounted to “simple bullying” which “attacks the very essence of a fair hearing”. The court held that the Walsh decision was applicable to Ms Burke’s conduct.

The court also pointed out that corporate bodies, such as Arthur Cox, were also permitted to rely on the constitutional right to fair procedures.

Finally, it was said that rights may be exercised in a way that become abuses of process and a court may refuse relief on that basis (see Sister Mary Christian & ors v. Dublin City Council (No. 1) [2012] IEHC 163). In this case, Ms Burke’s behaviour made it impossible for the court to conduct a fair hearing and was “the very definition of an abuse of the court’s process”. There was no justification for Ms Burke’s behaviour, the court said.


Ms Burke engaged in a “blatant abuse of the court process” despite being afforded time to reflect on her behaviour. The court was therefore compelling to dismiss the claim. The court would consider submissions on whether costs should be awarded against Ms Burke on a legal practitioner and client basis.

Burke v. An Adjudication Officer and Ors. [2023] IEHC 360

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