Enoch Burke has alleged that a judge laughed at, mocked and ridiculed him after he raised concerns about the disclosure of documents to him by Wilson’s Hospital School.
he dismissed a schoolteacher’s complaints that he had been “unjustly excluded” from court and “denial of due process”, were set out in an email to a Supreme Court clerk, read in court today by Mr Judge Alexander Owens.
In response, the judge said he had emphatically rejected Mr Burke’s complaints and said the disclosure issues raised had been resolved to his satisfaction by a lawyer from the school.
He also described Mr Burke’s conduct in court earlier this week as “completely and utterly unacceptable”.
Mr Burke was barred from court on Tuesday after being found contemptuous in the face of the court after refusing to accept a ruling from Mr Justice Owens. The judge had dismissed his arguments on the discovery issue as “flash”.
The teacher had repeatedly raised his voice, talked about the school’s judge and counsel, and refused to sit when told to.
Since then, the school’s lawsuit against him and his counterclaim have continued in his absence. It is expected to be completed today.
The court must decide whether the school correctly invoked a disciplinary action against Mr Burke and whether it was correct to suspend him following incidents in which he publicly opposed a request that teachers address a transgender student by a new name and as “she / they” pronouns.
The teacher, who is an evangelical Christian, objected on religious grounds and claims his suspension and subsequent dismissal was illegal.
Burke has been told by the judge that he can return to trial if he agrees to abide by the court’s rulings.
Although he and his sister Ammi were seen near the Four Courts today, he has not attempted to rejoin the trial, which is now entering its fourth and final day.
The judge heard Mark Connaughton SC’s closing arguments before the Co Westmeath school board of directors when the court learned that an email had been received from Mr Burke.
In the correspondence, Mr Burke again outlined allegations that an email had been “tampered” between the school’s former principal, Niamh McShane, and the chairman of the board, John Rogers, in discovery documents.
He also claimed that the minutes of several board meetings had not been made public and that WhatsApp messages between Ms McShane and Mr Rogers were only partially discovered because they contained no attachments or screenshots.
“When I raised this issue at the start of the hearing on Tuesday, I was repeatedly laughed at, mocked and ridiculed by the judge who refused to give orders in connection with the case,” he wrote.
“He [the judge] stated, ‘I have all the cards related to this and you have none of them’.
“He said my arguments were weak and there was no evidence the school had withheld any documents.”
The email continued: “I was subsequently barred by the judge from further participation in the hearing until I agreed to accept his rulings, including that the issues I had raised were weak and stupid and a waste of time.
“This was enforced by the gardaí who refused to let me re-enter the classroom when proceedings resumed at 2pm.”
Mr Burke claimed that the board’s lawyers had claimed to address the issues he raised in a subsequent email to him. “However, almost all issues remain unchanged,” he claimed.
“Despite my sincere desire to see this case progress, it is unconscionable that the trial has been allowed under these circumstances,” he said.
Later in the email, he said: “To participate in this hearing, the judge has made it a condition that I accept that the issues I have raised are weak and stupid and a waste of time.
“I cannot accept this. It is unacceptable for the judge to continue the process while fully aware of the board’s alteration and suppression of documentation. I am deeply concerned about the judge’s action in this case.
“I have been unfairly excluded from the trial and have not received fair treatment in this case.”
Mr Justice Owens said he wanted to “emphatically reject all of Mr Burke’s points”.
“I reiterate that Mr Burke’s behavior on Monday was completely unacceptable.
“Sometimes it is necessary to be direct with people who treat someone unfairly. I thought I was treated unfairly by Mr Burke. It is necessary to call a spade a spade.
Mr Justice Owens said it was occasionally necessary for a judge to “not be too polite about these things” and “get the message across by whatever means necessary”.
He said the discovery issues were “addressed to my satisfaction” by board counsel Alex White SC.
The judge said that if Mr. Burke had a legitimate concern, he was free to go to court at any stage, provided he first indicated his willingness to abide by the court’s rulings.
The hearing continues.