Senior Counsel

Susan L. Burke

VCARD
Susan Burke applies decades of experience litigating complex mass torts in state, federal and appellate courts to reform broken systems, advocate for our nation’s veterans and service members, and address societal problems, such as the opioid crisis.

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As a part of Motley Rice’s opioid litigation team, Susan contributes to cases filed in state courts for the firm’s clients —states, cities, counties, townships and other municipalities—against opioid manufacturers and distributors alleged to have played a role in creating the epidemic.

Prior to joining Motley Rice, Susan served as lead counsel and worked closely with Motley Rice for many years in multidistrict litigation In re KBR, Inc., Burn Pit Litigation, filed for veterans and contract workers who developed chronic illnesses after being exposed to toxic open-air burn pits near U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. She also served as lead counsel for Iraqi torture victims at Abu Ghraib, negotiating the nation’s first multi-million dollar settlement against defense contractors suspected of abuse of prisoners in the Iraq war, in addition to a settlement with former mercenary contractor Blackwater regarding the 2007 Nissor Square massacre and other abuses.

Notably, Susan also handled military abuse litigation as lead counsel for a series of lawsuits that sought to reform apparent deficiencies in the military’s prosecution of rape and sexual assault allegations, the source of Academy-award nominated documentary “The Invisible War,” in which Susan was profiled.

Outside of her international and military-focused casework, Susan also served as lead counsel in a nationwide fraud case against a medical device manufacturer, in addition to litigating claims of environmental harms against subcontractor AES regarding the dumping of coal ash on beaches in the Dominican Republic.

Susan has been featured in several media publications and programming, including appearances on Real Time with Bill Maher, Nightline, CNN's Amanpour, PBS Newshour, and has been profiled in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Daily News, and The Baltimore Sun, among other news outlets. She has also been recognized and honored several times for her legal accomplishments by publications including the 2013 editions of Washingtonian Magazine’s Washington’s Best Legal Minds, Self Magazine’s Women Doing Good, and Baltimore Sun Magazine’s Fifty Women to Watch. In 2013, Louisville, Ky., declared September 23 Susan L. Burke Day in recognition for her work to eradicate rape in the military. That same year, the California Legislative Assembly and the City of Los Angeles also awarded her Certificates of Recognition for her litigation in the public interest.

Recognized in 2015 in The National Law Journal as being among the country’s Outstanding Women Lawyers, Susan is a dynamic community leader, having held leadership positions and served on the boards of many organizations, including co-founding the West Baltimore Community Commission on Police Misconduct. She served as a Board Member for the social advocacy organization No Boundaries Coalition of Baltimore, in addition to devoting her time to causes such as education for underprivileged youth in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. as a Board Member for the Philadelphia Academies and the Black Student Fund, respectively. She has a strong interest in promoting women’s leadership in politics, including having served as Board Chair of Democratic Women’s PAC of Maryland and a Board Member of Emerge Maryland. Additional roles she’s held include Boards Memberships for the Maryland Disability Law Center and the Advisory Council for D.C.’s Department of Mental Health.

Susan is also a frequent speaker, panelist and collaborator, offering insight for programs, films, books and art that explore a variety of legal matters, including legal advocacy, prison reform, environmental harms, legal ethics, health care fraud and abuse, sexual assault, torture and war crimes.  

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS:     

  • Litigating Outside the Box: Seeking Justice for the Abu Ghraib Torture Victims, Journal of the Maryland Association for Justice (Spring 2015)
  • Private Antitrust Suits in Health Care: A Review of Major Pending And Recently Decided Actions, ABA Private Antitrust Litigation News (Spring 2003)
  • Squaring Off on Over-the-Counter Status: WellPoint Versus the Antihistamine Manufacturers, Update (September/October 2001)
  • Stopping the Unauthorized Sale of Pharmaceuticals: An Argument for Private Enforcement Actions, Update (January 2001)
  • Malpractice Online, Daily Deal (September 26, 2000)
  • Self-disclosure Disincentives, Modern Healthcare (September 25, 2000)
  • Suing HMOs: State Your Case, Legal Times (July 31, 2000)
  • It's E-nevitable: Online Malpractice, Legal Times (June 19, 2000)
  • Analysis Has Its Privileges, Legal Times (March 22, 1999)
  • The Increasing Focus of Public International Law on Private Law Issues, 86th American Society of International Law Proceedings 456 (1992)
  • The Human Right To Participate in Government: Toward an Operational Definition, 82nd American Society of International Law Proceedings 505 (1988)
  • Professional Responsibility, 35 Catholic University Law Review 1225 (1986)

Open Bio

Education

  • J.D., Catholic University Columbus School of Law, 1987
  • B.S.F.S., Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, 1984

Associations

  • American Association for Justice

Licensed In

  • District Of Columbia
  • Maryland

Admitted to Practice Before

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Courts of Appeal for the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, Eleventh and D.C. Circuits
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, District of Maryland, Eastern District of Michigan, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the Eastern District of Virginia

Casework

Active Case

Opioid Litigation

The growing opioid epidemic crosses virtually all demographics, and with more than half a million related deaths recorded in the U.S. since 2015, the crisis has officially been declared a public health emergency.

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Burn Pit Exposure

Prolonged exposure to fumes emitted by burn pits used by KBR at military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, at which hazardous and other items were disposed of, allegedly caused American servicemembers and civilian contract workers to contract illnesses.

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Attorneys:

James W. Ledlie