Solicitor Ammi Burke’s High Court challenge to the Workplace Relations Commission

If you have an interest in employment law you will be interested in the outcome of a High Court judicial review case taken by a young solicitor from Castlebar, Ammi Burke.

Ms Burke was dismissed from her job with leading solicitors, Arthur Cox LLP in 2019.

She brought an unfair dismissal claim to the Workplace Relations Commission, but her case was eventually thrown out by the adjudication officer, Kevin Baneham.

The case itself attracted a good deal of publicity and comment on social media platforms, most notably Twitter, because the adjudicator had immense difficulties with the behaviour and repeated interruptions of Ms Burke’s mother at the hearing.

The hearing was suspended for certain periods of time-six in total-and then abandoned altogether with the case being dismissed.

Counsel for the employer had described Ms Burke and her family in less than complimentary terms, using the phrase ‘travelling circus’, something which Ms Burke took exception to and found ‘defamatory’.

Ms Burke is now asking the High Court, by way of judicial review proceedings, to make certain findings including

  1. The decision of the adjudication officer in her case was flawed and should be set aside
  2. The ruling of the adjudication officer that the adjudication of an unfair dismissal claims is adversarial is incorrect and is inquisitorial instead
  3. The failure of the adjudication officer to summons two witnesses from Arthur Cox LLP was a wrong decision
  4. The failure of the officer to have certain emails produced before the hearing was wrong as the emails were important to the claim of Ms Burke
  5. The way the officer brought to an end her unfair dismissal claim was unlawful

Ms Burke clashed with the High Court Judge, Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger, asking her to withdraw the statement that there was no public interest element in Ms Burke’s case. Ms Burke repeatedly asked the Judge to retract the statement, but the Judge refused saying she ‘had made her decision’.

The Judge granted leave to Ms Burke to pursue her judicial review proceedings. The full hearing of this challenge ought to be interesting.

My view, for what it is worth, is that the High Court will send the case back again to the WRC for adjudication, perhaps with certain conditions attaching to the conduct of the hearing.

This is just a personal opinion, however. I could be hopelessly wrong.

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