Fired Ammi Burke hit with legal fees for lawsuit with former employer

Dismissed lawyer Ammi Burke has been ordered to pay the legal costs incurred by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and her former employer Arthur Cox at the Court of Appeal.

Her appeal was dismissed last April, with the Court of Appeal ruling that the High Court had rightly dismissed her judicial review mid-hearing when confronted with Ms Burke’s “utterly abhorrent and egregious” behaviour.

Ms Burke, from Castlebar, Co Mayo, had wanted the courts to overturn the WRC’s dismissal of her complaint alleging she was unfairly dismissed from Arthur Cox, where she was a junior employee, in late 2019. The law firm denied wrongfully firing her.

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A WRC judge also stopped hearing her complaint due to “persistent and deliberate obstruction and disruption” by Ms Burke’s mother, Martina Burke. The Court of Appeal based its recent decision on written submissions after aborting the oral hearing of Ms Burke’s appeal due to her interruptions.

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal ruled that she should be held liable for the costs incurred by the WRC and Arthur Cox in successfully fighting her appeal. It rejected Ms Burke’s arguments asking the court to refrain from making a costs order as “misconceived at a fundamental level”.

Her request was based on complaints about the way the appeal hearing was conducted and criticism of the court’s ruling, the judges said. “An unsuccessful appellant cannot avoid a costs order by impermissibly complaining that the judgment was wrong,” they said.

The court also refused a request by the law firm to express its disapproval of Ms. Burke’s conduct by ordering costs on an “attorney and client” basis, which covers all reasonable costs incurred, even those that were not absolutely necessary.

The judges noted that they upheld the High Court’s decision to order Ms Burke to pay the majority of the High Court costs on this basis.

The Court of Appeal’s disapproval of Ms Burke’s conduct is “clear” from the main judgment, so there is no need to express its disapproval by awarding costs in this way, especially when the lawyer’s and client’s costs before the Supreme Court “likely to be significantly more substantial,” they said.

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