Susan L. Burke

Susan L. BurkeIn June 2015, the National Law Journal named Susan L. Burke one of the top 75 female attorneys in the nation. Ms. Burke is an experienced litigator with 28 years of experience in federal class and complex litigation, who specializes in bringing federal class action or mass tort lawsuits to reform broken systems or fix societal problems.

Presently, Ms. Burke serves as lead MDL counsel in the KBR Burn Pit MDL, pending in federal court in Maryland. In that case, Ms. Burke represents military personnel harmed by Halliburton/KBR’s misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ms. Burke also serves as lead counsel in a False Claims Act case against a major medical device company.

Ms. Burke’s past work in American federal courts has had a global impact: As lead counsel for Iraqi victims, Ms. Burke achieved a legal first by negotiating multi-million dollar settlements with defense contractors involved in the Abu Ghraib torture, and with Blackwater, a private mercenary company responsible for the Nissor Square massacre.

Ms. Burke speaks frequently, and presses for change in many fora. Ms. Burke collaborated with filmmakers who produced “The Invisible War,” an Academy-award nominated documentary about the lack of justice for military rape victims. Ms. Burke has appeared as a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher, Nightline, CNN Christina Amanpour, PBS Newshour, and many other television news shows. Ms. Burke and her legal work have been profiled by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the Baltimore Sun, as well as other news outlets.



Named one of 75 top female attorneys in the nation by The National Law Journal (April 15, 2015)
Rated AV Preeminent by Martindale Hubbell (ongoing)
Named as one of the top lawyers in Washington D.C. by the Legal Network (2013, 2014 and 2015)
Awarded Social Action Award by National Council of Jewish Women, St. Louis, Missouri (March 8, 2014)
Named “alumna of the year” by Georgetown University College Democrats (May 2014)
Selected by Washingtonian Magazine as one of Washington’s Best Legal Minds (December 2013)
Selected by Self magazine as a “woman doing good” (September 2103)
Louisville, Kentucky officially proclaimed a “Susan L. Burke Day” (September 23, 2013)
Selected as one of “Fifty Women To Watch” by Baltimore Sun Magazine (July, 2013, follow up published October 2014)
Awarded Abby J. Leibman Pursuit of Justice Award by California Women’s Law Center (May 29, 2013)

Awarded Certificates of Recognition by the California Legislative Assembly and the City of Los Angeles (May 29, 2013)

Named one of the “Women of the Year” by the Philadelphia Legal Intelligencer and Pennsylvania Law Weekly (May 2008)

Received President’s Award from Center for Constitutional Right (April 27, 2006)
Received Catholic University Faculty Award for highest academic average in class (May 1987)
Awarded Miriam T. Rooney Scholarship for academic excellence (1985 – 1987)
Awarded AmJur awards for highest grad in torts, corporations, criminal law and procedure, tax, and trusts and estates; editor Catholic University Law Review’s D.C. Survey (1984 – 1987)


(chronological order within topic)

Leadership & Legal Advocacy

March 25, 2014, Governor’s Leadership Conference for Women and Girls, Annapolis, Maryland
March 23, 2013, Taking the Power On Your Campus and Beyond, 9th Annual National Young Feminist Leadership Conference, Feminist Majority, Washington D.C.
September 12, 2012, Lawyering in the Public Interest, University of Kentucky College of Law, Lexington, Kentucky
Fall, 2008, Guest Lecturer, Trial Advocacy, University of Virginia Law School, Charlottesville, Virginia
March 13, 2007, Keynote Speaker, “Agents of Change: Art & Advocacy,” 45th Society for Photographic Education National Conference, Denver, Colorado

Prison Reform

January 31, 2015, speaker at Maryland CURE, Columbia, Maryland
October 4, 2014, University of Pittsburgh Law School and Abolitionist Law Center
Rape and Sexual Assault
May 19, 2015, witness, Judicial Proceedings Panel on Military Sexual Assault, Washington, D.C.
April 20, 2015, panelist, American Bar Association, “Beyond Criminal: Civil Remedies for Sexual Assault Victims”
April 11, 2015, featured speaker, American Association of University Women, Jamesburg, New Jersey
February 12, 2015, panelist, George Mason University, Center for Study of Gender and Conflict, Arlington Virginia
September 17, 2014, guest lecture, George Washington School of Social Work, Washington D.C.
August 4, 2014 panelist (moderator Leslie Stahl), Protect Our Defenders, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
April 22, 2014 featured speaker, Middlebury College, Vermont
April 12, 2014 keynote speaker, regional conference, American Association University Women, Minneapolis, Minnesota

April 7, 2014 featured speaker, Georgetown University, sponsored by Georgetown University College Democrats

March 28, 2014 featured speaker, Connecticut College, sponsored by Amnesty International
March 26, 2014 panelist, BrittDoc, New York City
March 13, 2014 panelist, “Legal Reforms Addressing Gender Violence and Rape Culture,” University of Baltimore Law School and Women’s Law Center
March 8, 2014 luncheon speaker, American Association of University Women, Springfield, Virginia
October 19, 2013 panelist, Fordham Film Festival, New York City
September 24, 2013, featured speaker, Take Back the Night, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky
September 19, 2013, keynote presentation, Rosalie Wahl Leadership Lecture, co-sponsored by William Mitchell College of Law, Minnesota Women’s Lawyers and Minnesota Coalition against Sexual Assault
July 2013, featured speaker, Protect Our Defenders, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
June 4, 2013, panelist, Soros’ Open Society Institute, New York City
June 2013, featured speaker, American Association University Women cable television show
April 2, 2013, panelist, Columbia School of Law, sponsored by Law Students for Reproductive Justice, New York City
February, 2013, featured speaker, University of California Irvine School of Law, Irvine, California
January 29, 2013, panelist, Paley Center, New York City
November 12, 2012, panelist, Florida State University Student Veteran Film Festival, Tallahassee, Florida
October 26, 2012, presented award to filmmakers, Peace Over Violence
September 19, 2012, panelist, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, Massachusetts
September 12, 2012, featured speaker, University of Kentucky College of Law, Lexington, Kentucky
August 22, 2012, luncheon speaker, Reporting the Response to Sexual Assault within the Military, National Sexual Assault Conference 2012, Sheraton Hotel, Chicago Illinois
June 20, 2011, speaker, National Crime Victim Bar Association National Conference (n.b. written materials prepared by colleague)
March 9, 2012, panelist “Women in Combat: Fighting on Two Fronts,” Third Annual Women in the World Summit sponsored by Newsweek & The Daily Beast, New York City

Environmental Harms

March 11-12, 2010, panelist, Burn Pit Litigation, Tactix 2010 Conference, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Torture and Other War Crimes
March 24, 2015, panel member, “Guns for Hire: The Legal, Policy and Ethical Implications of the Growing Reliance on Military Contractors,” National Security Law Brief, American University, Washington, D.C.
September 13, 2010, panel member, “None of Us Were Like This Before,” Open Society Institute, New York, New York
May 21, 2010, presentation with Daniel Heyman (artist) about torture and Nissor Square massacre, Wesleyan Reunion & Commencement Weekend
June 8-9, 2009, participant, Accountability for Human Rights Abuses, National Litigation Project, New York, New York
October 17, 2008, speaker in conjunction with “Love Lessons from Abu Ghraib’ performance, sponsored by Amnesty International, Washington D.C.
Fall 2009, panelist, University of Virginia Public Service Conference
June 3, 2009, panelist, Soros’ Open Society Institute, New York City
December 8, 2007, panelist, Executive Power and Human Rights: Torture, Secrecy and the Rule of Law, Baltimore, Maryland
October 21, 2008, panelist, Princeton Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton, New Jersey
July 12, 2007, featured speaker at the Philadelphia Bar Association Civil Rights Committee event, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

February 2007, panelist, America’s Next Civil Rights Frontier, University of Pennsylvania Law School Journal of Law and Social Change, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

October 13, 2006, keynote, Mercer Tate Lecture, Germantown Friends School, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

February 2006, keynote, Liability of Non-State Actors for Violations of International Law, Amnesty International USA 2006 Law Conference
December 28, 2005 – January 1, 2006, speaker, The Abu Ghraib Scandal – Failure To Investigate and Prosecute, Renaissance Weekend, Charleston, South Carolina
December 2005, speaker, “Regulating the Private Commercial Military Sector,” New York University’s Institute for International Law and Justice, New York City
April 2, 2005, panelist, Protagonist or Pawn? The Private Contractor in Foreign Affairs, American Society of International Law’s 99th Annual Meeting, Washington D.C.
January 30, 2005, panelist, Civil Rights to Human Rights: From Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib, sponsored by CAIR-Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
October 4, 2004, panelist, Protecting Human Rights Across Borders, University of Pennsylvania School of Law
October 19, 2004, featured speaker, “Representing the Abu Ghraib Detainees,” Temple University School of Law, Institute for International Law and Public Policy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
September 22, 2004, panelist, Legal Issues Surrounding the Detention, Treatment and Trials of Post-9/11 Detainees, Philadelphia Bar Associations Chancellor’s Forum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Legal Ethics

July 28, 2003, moderator, Candor Towards Your Opponents and the Tribunal, City of Philadelphia Law Department

Health Care Fraud and Abuse

February 20, 2004, “The Evolving Legal Terrain for Voluntary Disclosures,” American Bar Association (“ABA”) Health Law Section 5th Annual Conference on Emerging Issues in Healthcare Law
May 2003, “Private Antitrust Suits in Health Care: A Review of Major Pending and Recently Decided Actions,” ABA and American Health Lawyers Association Health Care Antitrust Conference
May 2003, “Protect Thyself and Thy Shareholders: Preventive Corporate Criminal Law,” United States Law Group
February 1-2, 2002, “Update on Pharmaceutical Fraud and Abuse Issues,” Association of Community Cancer Centers 10th Annual,
Oncology Presidents’ Retreat
October 2001, “Legal Risks Use of Unapproved or Withdrawn Medications,” Annual Scientific Meeting, American College of Gastroenterology, Las Vegas, Nevada
June 18-21, 2001, E-Health Care Fraud, American Health Lawyers Association Annual Meeting, Orlando, Florida
May 2001, E-Health Fraud, American Bar Association’s 11th Annual National Institute on Health Care Fraud
March 2001, OIG Self-Disclosure Protocol, D.C. Bar Health Law Section
March 2000, Defense Attorney’s Role in Health Care Fraud Investigation Department of Justice, Department of Justice’s Health Care Fraud Conference
February 2000, Healthcare in the Year 2010, developed in-house conference for health care executives that focused on future developments in health care
November 1999,Scope and Role of Attorney-Client Privilege and Work Product Doctrine, American Health Lawyers Association
October 1999, Voluntary Disclosure, Federation of American Hospitals
June 22, 1999, Fraud and abuse, PhRMA Patient Assistance Program Directors’ Meeting

May 12, 1999, Fraud and Abuse/Corporate Compliance, Subacute Care ’99 Conference
May 1999, Complying with the Self-Referral and Anti-Kickback Laws, Greater New York Hospital Association
April 1999, Former Insider’s View of Health Care Fraud Enforcement Efforts, Federation of American Hospitals
April 1999, Issues To Consider in Conducting Internal Investigations: Relationship Between Employment Law and Fraud and Abuse Prevention Efforts, Federation of American Hospitals
February 1999, Litigating Health Care Fraud, Catholic University Law School
January 20,1999, Protections Provided By the Attorney-Client Communication, Work Product and Self-Critical Analysis Privileges, Greater New York Hospital Association
October 8-9,1998, What Justice Is Looking For When They Are Looking At You, Catholic Health Association
June 1998,The Department’s Fraud and Abuse Enforcement Efforts, American Medical Rehabilitation Providers Association


Litigating Outside the Box: Seeking Justice for the Abu Ghraib Torture Victims, published by the Journal of the Maryland Association for Justice (Sprint 2015)

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

Past Directorships/Chairs

Board of Governors, Maryland Association for Justice
Board chair, Democratic Women’s PAC of Maryland
Board member, Emerge Maryland, Baltimore MD
Treasurer, No Boundaries, Baltimore MD
Board member, Philadelphia Academies, Philadelphia PA
Board member, Black Student Fund, Washington DC
Board member, Maryland Disability Law Center, Baltimore MD
Receiver’s Advisory Council, District of Columbia Depart of Mental Health
Chair, Search Committee for Chief Operating Officer, District of Columbia Mental Health Department
Co-chair, Children of War, Amnesty International
Advisory board member, Ginetta Sagan Fund, Amnesty International
Co-president, PTA, Arlington Science Focus School



“The Invisible War” by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, won Sundance Audience Award (January 2012), nominated for Academy Award (February 2013), awarded Silver Gavel Award by American Bar Association, National Press Club, Washington D.C. (July 22, 2014)

“Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” by Rory Kennedy and Jack Youngelson, selected for Sundance Film Festival (January 2007)


The Ticking is The Bomb by award-wining author Nick Flynn (book focuses in part on his journeys with Burke to Turkey to interview Iraqi torture victims)


Collections of Yale, Columbia, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Getty Research Institute include works by Artist Daniel Heyman, who attended our interviews of Iraqi victims of torture and other war crimes and portrayed those interviews in his paintings and prints.

Photographer Chris Bartlett also attended our interviews, and married portraits of some of the former detainees with quotes detailing their experiences. His project has been shown at the Open Society Foundation’s Moving Walls Exhibition, the 2014 Photoville exhibition in Brooklyn, NY and at Fotofest in Houston and the Hamburg Triennale.  Images are in the permanent collection of the Open Society Foundation.


Catholic University Columbus School of Law, J.D., received faculty award for the highest-academic average, 1987
Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, B.S.F.S. 1984

Professional Affiliations

Law Offices of Susan L. Burke (formerly Burke O’Neil), Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Baltimore, 2005 to present
Katz Marshall and Banks, Washington D.C. (part-time) 2013 to 2014
Montgomery McCracken Walker and Rhodes, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2003 to 2005
Vice President and Legal Counsel, Tenet Health Systems, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2002 to 2003
Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo, Washington D.C. 2001 to 2002
Covington & Burling, Washington D.C. 1987 to 1997, 1998 to 2001
Trial Attorney, Department of Justice Civil Frauds, Washington, D.C. 1997 to1998

Federal Court Admissions

U.S. District Courts

District of Maryland, September 23, 2016

Eastern District of Virginia, May 19, 1989

District of Columbia, November 4, 1991

Eastern District of Michigan, March 23, 2000

Eastern District of Pennsylvania, June 7, 2004

District of Maryland, April 7, 2017

U.S. Court of Appeals

Fourth Circuit, admitted October 23, 1987
District of Columbia Circuit, July 7, 1992
Sixth Circuit, admitted October 10, 1995
Eleventh Circuit, admitted November 19, 2001
Fifth Circuit, admitted February 17, 2004
Third Circuit, admitted September 2, 2004
Ninth Circuit, admitted March 22, 2005
First Circuit, admitted April 22, 2008

U.S. Supreme Court

Admitted on July 26, 2010