Charles Burton (1760 – 1847) was an English-born barrister and judge who spent the greater part of his professional career in Ireland.
He was born at Aynho in Northamptonshire, second son of Francis Burton and Anna Singer. He entered Middle Temple and subsequently Lincoln's Inn. Ball states that he was never called to the English Bar, although he practiced as an attorney in the King's Bench. He was befriended by the leading Irish barrister John Philpot Curran, who evidently persuaded him that his future lay at the Irish Bar. He was called to the Irish Bar in 1792 and took silk in 1806.
He was a man of great erudition, who was described, perhaps with some exaggeration, as the most learned man ever to practice at the Irish Bar. He was also an exceptionally hard worker and above all a superb advocate. He made his reputation with his speech for the defendant, a speech which was described as "a masterpiece of eloquence", in the leading quo warranto case, R. v. Waller O'Grady, in 1816, where the Crown challenged the right of the Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer to appoint his younger son as a Court clerk.
Thereafter his career advanced rapidly : he became Third Serjeant in 1817, Second Serjeant in 1818, and a judge of the Court of King's Bench (Ireland) in 1820. He was one of the last Englishmen to be elevated to the Irish Bench.
His most memorable trial was that of Daniel O'Connell for conspiracy in 1844: while there were other judges on the Bench, it was Burton who passed the sentence of imprisonment, which was later quashed by the House of Lords. Burton was by then a very old man and his mental and physical faculties may have been failing, as several witnesses claimed that he was asleep during part of the trial.
Just as Curran had been his own mentor, so Burton acted as mentor to the young Gerald Fitzgibbon, encouraging him to pursue a legal career, and thus helping to found one of Ireland's most remarkable legal dynasties.
He was a member of the Royal Dublin Society, and renowned for his classical learning. He lived mainly in Dublin, where he changed his residence several times, and also had a house at Eyrecourt in County Galway. He died in Dublin in 1847 and was buried in St. Peter's Church, Aungier Street, Dublin (the church was demolished in the 1980s).
He married in 1787 Anna Andrews, who died in 1822: they had one daughter who married John Beattie West, MP for Dublin.