I ask NOT about court opinions. The UKSC doesn't publish them.

Can I get a copy of a party's 'skeleton argument' or case?

The UKSC does not publish parties' cases. [...].

Yet Gina Miller tweeted to her skeleton argument for her Claim No: CO/3385/2019 at the QBD, on her solicitor's website.

Googling "Skeleton Argument of the Secretary of State" yields just 27 results, e.g.

4 Answers 4


A submission is simply the name for that part of one side's case which is submitted to the court but is not evidence, whether that is 'I suggest there is no case to answer' or a day-long oration. As such, they are not normally written documents, and so are only generally available by obtaining a transcript of the whole day's proceedings . Even if this is possible (not all cases are automatically recorded) there is certainly a charge for it.

There are exceptions, of course: the Supreme Court, less bound by tradition since it was created only recently, prefers to read advocates' speeches rather than listen to them. And advocates do in practice often write out their speeches, so a particular submission might be obtainable by suitable flattery of the advocate (or more likely his clerk/secretary). But in general, the answer is "you can't".

  • +1. Thanks for the elucidation. I edited my OP: does it change anything?
    – user89
    May 10, 2017 at 23:28
  • Fascinating. While U.S. criminal proceedings still have a high proportion of oral presentations to written documents, in civil proceedings in the U.S., written documents are king and oral presentations are pretty much considered only the icing on the cake.
    – ohwilleke
    May 11, 2017 at 2:40
  • @Canada-Area51Proposal: The edited question is probably too wide to be answerable. The Civil Procedure Rules set out which documents are available to the public (the deleted answer now seems more pertinent than mine), and there are similar rules for criminal cases; but available usually means 'can be inspected if you go to the court' rather than 'put on the Internet'. May 11, 2017 at 8:33
  • The question is fine. Its asking where to obtain a specific type of filing: a skeleton argument. Oct 30, 2019 at 10:52

Court filings are documents filed to court for cases, a skeleton argument is one of these documents.

Documents relating to a case forms its case "docket".

While case judgments are usually easy to access, and for free, it is not the same for case dockets.

In the US, there is a public service called PACER, which is a database that allows members of the public to retrieve case dockets and therefore filings from a case.

In the UK, the equivalent would be the E-Filing system: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ce-file-system-information-and-support-advice

The E filing system is used by many courts, but it is NOT used by every court in tue UK, notably the court of appeals have yet to implement it, and are on track to adopt it by 2025 if I recall correctly.

Check the link to see information about how to search for case dockets as a public user, and see the case you are looking for can be found.


It depends on the type of case and the court/tribunal

The idea of a skeleton argument is that it saves time for the court or tribunal, and helps the barristers present their case effectively and efficiently, if they supply to the court/tribunal and to each other, a week (say) before the hearing a bare written "skeleton" of the arguments they intend to advance. They then put flesh on the bones, to continue the metaphor, when making oral arguments.

In a trial - when evidence is being produced and tested - the barristers' skeleton arguments may be very skeletal because the arguments advanced at the end of the trial depend on the evidence so it is only very high level points which would be in a skeleton.

When it comes to appeals, however, skeletons are typically longer because all the facts and evidence is known and so the arguments to be advanced can be more precisely formulated.

Many courts in England and Wales require skeleton arguments to be filed at the same time as the Notice of Appeal so, in that case, they may be filed many months before the hearing and sometimes a supplementary skeleton argument is provided by one or both barristers a week or so before the hearing.

The skeleton argument filed with the Notice of Appeal is part of the court file and should be available to anyone who asks for a copy (and pays the standard fee) at the court office. Some courts require barristers to bring to the hearing additional copies of main and any supplementary skeleton arguments to be given to court reporters and accredited journalists. For example the practice direction for the Court of Appeal states

Documents to be provided to court reporters at the hearing of an appeal

33(1) Where a party is legally represented at the hearing of an appeal, the legal representative must bring to the hearing two additional copies of the party’s skeleton argument (including any supplementary skeleton argument) for provision to accredited law reporters and accredited media reporters in accordance with the following provisions of this paragraph.

(2) In appeals in family proceedings involving a child, the copies of the skeleton argument must be in anonymised form and must omit any detail that might, if reported, lead to the identification of the child.

(3) The additional copies must be supplied before the commencement of the hearing to the usher or other court official present in court.

(4) The usher or other court official to whom the copies are supplied must provide one copy to an accredited law reporter (upon production of their Royal Courts of Justice security pass) and one copy to an accredited media reporter (upon production of their press pass), if so requested by them. Those copies are to be provided only for the purpose of reporting the court proceedings and on the basis that the recipients may remove them from the court and make further copies of them for distribution to other accredited reporters in court, again only for the purpose of reporting the court proceedings.

(5) Any party may apply orally to the court at the commencement of the hearing for a direction lifting or varying the obligations imposed by sub-paragraphs (3) and (4). Where a party intends to make such an application or is notified by another party of the intention to make one, the operation of those sub-paragraphs is suspended pending the ruling of the court.

(6) In deciding whether to make a direction under sub-paragraph (5), the court must take into account all the circumstances of the case and have regard in particular to—

(a) the interests of justice;

(b) the public interest;

(c) the protection of the interests of any child, vulnerable adult or protected party;

(d) the protection of the identity of any person intended to be protected by an order or direction relating to anonymity; and

(e) the nature of any private or confidential information (including information relating to personal financial matters) in the document.

A direction may permit a skeleton argument to be supplied in redacted or anonymised form.

(7) For the purposes of this paragraph, “the hearing of an appeal” includes a hearing listed as an application for permission to appeal with the appeal to follow immediately if permission is granted.

If you buy a copy of a report of a case - for example from the ICLR - it contains not only the court/tribunal judgment itself (which is also available free from the court website) but also the arguments advanced by each side. These arguments are summarised from the skeleton arguments and oral arguments so this is an indirect way of finding out at least the gist of the skeleton arguments in the case.


Generally, you can't. These are private documents, only the judgement is public.

  • 4
    Anything said in open court (which includes most submissions) cannot be private. May 12, 2017 at 16:48

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