Monday, July 25, 2022

High Court reporters

Solicitor Ammi Burke has brought a High Court action seeking to overturn the rejection of an unfair dismissal claim she brought against her former employer Arthur Cox LLP.

Last May an independent adjudication officer threw out a complaint Miss Burke had made to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) that she had been unfairly dismissed by the well-known law firm in November 2019.

However, Miss Burke, from Cloonsunna, Castlebar, Co Mayo, claims the adjudication officer’s decision was flawed, was made in breach of fair procedures and argues that it should be set aside.

Her action is brought on grounds including that a ruling made by the officer in the course of the hearing of her claim, that the adjudication of an unfair dismissal claim is adversarial in nature, is incorrect.

Miss Burke claims that under the 1977 Unfair Dismissal Acts, any such procedures in the adjudication of such claims must be inquisitorial in nature.

She also claims that the decision was flawed because the adjudication officer refused to summon two witnesses employed by Arthur Cox before the hearing, and that the officer failed to have certain emails produced before the hearing.

‘Unlawful’

She alleges that both the witnesses – who she wanted to cross-examine – and the emails are very important to her claim.

She further claims that the manner in which the adjudication officer brought to an end or terminated her claim was also unlawful.

Representing herself, Miss Burke has brought judicial review proceedings against the adjudications officer and the WRC where she seeks several reliefs, including an order quashing the decision to dismiss her claim.

She also seeks declarations that the adjudication officer’s ruling that unfair dismissal claims at the WRC are adversarial is unlawful, and incorrect, and that his dismissal of the claim was unlawful.

She further seeks various declarations including that those decisions taken by the adjudication officer regarding the witnesses, the emails and the termination of the hearing were irrational, unfair and unreasonable.

Arthur Cox LLP is a notice party to the proceedings.

The matter came before Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger on Monday. The judge, on an ex-parte basis, granted Miss Burke permission to bring the challenge.

However, the hearing was marked by what was at times a heated exchange between Miss Burke and the judge.

‘Retract that statement’

Miss Burke had asked for the court’s permission to amend her statement of grounds after the judge raised a concern about the vagueness of a certain aspect of the action where the applicant seeks clarity from the court on the practical applications of parts of the Unfair Dismissals Act.

The judge said that she was not prepared to grant leave on that issue but was granting leave on all other issues raised by Miss Burke in her pleadings.

The judge added that Miss Burke could raise the clarity issue in her submissions at a later stage of the proceedings.

Arising out of that, Miss Burke asked the court to be allowed amend her pleadings, which the judge refused.

Arising out of that exchange, Miss Burke voiced her extreme concern over the judge’s remark that the court did not believe that any issue of public importance, outside of Miss Burke’s own case, had been raised in the action.

Miss Burke said that the case was of “manifest public importance”, and asked the judge on several occasions to “retract that statement”.

Miss Burke said that the statement would impact on her case further down the line.

The applicant said she has not secured any legal work since she was summarily and unfairly dismissed by Arthur Cox and said that she should not have to be in a position where she has to come to court to vindicate her rights.

In reply the judge said that she had “made her decision” and would “not retract” anything that she had said.

The judge added that Miss Burke “was free to appeal” the court’s ruling in relation her judicial review action if she wished.

The case will return before the court at a future date.

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