Skeleton Argument Guide for Self Representing Litigants

Skeleton Argument

  • A skeleton argument is a written document which sets out a summary of the party’s (claimant and defendant) arguments in the case
  • Civil Procedure Rules requires each party to prepare a skeleton argument before any substantive hearing.
  • Parties should also prepare skeleton arguments before any interim hearing in the course of a judicial review (including any renewed permission or hearing for interim relief or directions),
  • even where the issue is straightforward, a skeleton argument in such circumstances is not mandatory by virtue of any rule but may be very helpful to the Court.

Content of Skeleton Argument

The skeleton argument must include the following information

  • On the first page, a time estimate for the complete hearing, including delivery of judgment, and the judge’s pre-reading.
  • A list of issues.
  • A list of the legal points to be taken (together with any relevant authorities with page references to the passages relied on).
  • A chronology of events with page references to the bundle of documents.
  • A list of essential documents for the advance reading of the Court (with page references to the passages relied on);
  • A time estimate for the advance reading suggested; and
  • A list of persons referred to in the claim.

Form of Skelton Arguments

It is helpful if the skeleton argument sets out the points to be made as clearly and as concisely as possible. Ideally, the skeleton argument should be in the following form:

  • The decision which is under challenge or which claimant thinks is unfair to him must be clearly identified, or the relevant failure to make a decision if that is what is under challenge.
  • The relevant facts should be summarised including any relevant change of facts or circumstances since the claim form and supporting documentation were lodged.
  • The grounds for seeking judicial review (or interim relief, or any other order) should be set out under numbered headings.
  • Relevant legal principles should be set out.
  • Lengthy extracts from EU Directives, international Conventions, statutes, case law and other sources should be avoided if possible.
  • It is much more helpful to the Court if the skeleton states the proposition of law which the party contends for, and then refers to the source of or authority for that proposition, with short extracts quoted if that is appropriate.
  • It is not usually necessary or helpful to cite more than one case in support of each proposition of law.
  • The remedy sought must be clearly identified and stated. (Please refer to Step 1 for available Remedies)
  • Any urgency, other matter relevant to the timing of the case, and any other relevant point, such as alternative remedy, should also be identified and stated.

Format of Skeleton Argument

  • A skeleton argument should be clearly typed and properly spaced.
  • A font style of not less than 11-point should be used, and lines should be reasonably spaced (1.5 or double spacing is ideal).
  • Paragraphs should be numbered sequentially.
  • Pages should be numbered. It is rarely necessary for skeleton arguments to be any longer than 20 pages in length.

Method of Service

  • Skeleton arguments may be filed with the Court by email at the relevant email address provided under “Courts and their Address” section, as long as they do not exceed the maximum data attachment limit which the appropriate court office has indicated it can accept by email.
  • Skeletons served by email should be served in the form of an attached word document (as opposed to pdf, any other format, or in the body of the email).
  • There is no need to file a hard copy of the skeleton if filing by email.
  • Skeleton arguments should always be served on the other party or parties to the case, whether or not that party is in a position to provide a skeleton by way of exchange.
  • The Skeleton arguments can also be lodged at the Court in hard copy.

Time Period

  • For Claimant, the minimum time period required to submit the skeleton argument is at least 21 days before the date of hearing of the claim.
  • For Defendant, they must also submit their Skeleton argument at least 14 days before the date of hearing
  • Court can also set a time a time frame in which these arguments must be submitted.
  • In the absence of standard directions, the skeleton arguments must be submitted to the court at least 14 days before the hearing date.
  • Skeleton arguments should not be handed to the Court on the day of the hearing.

Compliance Failure

Where the skeleton argument does not comply with the guidance or is served late, the Court may refuse to permit the party in default to rely on the skeleton; alternatively, the Court may make adverse costs order against the party in default. Non-compliance has a severe impact on the case. It is advisable to follow the guide line provided and also seek legal help.

Disclaimer

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Each legal case and issue may have unique facts and circumstances, as a result legalally does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information provided. For further help and guidance, you can always rely on and seek advice from our experienced lawyers.

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