Instant Court Case Lookup
The following is for information purposes only
What Are Court Dockets?
As defined by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, a court docket is "a record containing the complete history of each case in the form of brief chronological entries summarizing court proceedings."
A court docket consists of upcoming court proceedings and filings. In other words, court dockets are essentially court calendars that enable a court to track multiple cases.
Court dockets list court filings like pleadings, briefs, declarations, exhibits, orders, judgments, and sometimes court notations like payment of fees or continuances of dates.
In civil cases, the docket usually begins with the filing of summons and complaints, while in a criminal case in criminal court, the docket begins with an indictment.
Courts usually maintain dockets throughout the lifetime of a pending action and after the final disposition of a case.
What Information Is Found Inside Court Dockets?
In most court dockets, a person will typically find the following case information:
- The Docket Number is the court's official identification number for the case. In other words, it's the case number. It's denoted by the year the plaintiff filed the lawsuit, followed by a reference number (usually sequentially assigned and often including letters or numbers indicating the type of suit, such as civil, criminal, family) or the location of the filing, or the initials and bar number of the judge handling the matter.
- Parties and Attorneys - A listing of all the parties involved in the case along with their attorney and contact information.
- Docket Proceedings - A list of civil and criminal courts events. Proceedings are usually characterized by an orderly process where the parties of a case can present evidence supporting their claims and argue in favor of specific interpretations of the law. After this, the judge or jury decides on the factual and legal issues.
- Nature of Suit - This section contains an idea of the main issues involved in a matter before the courts. This means the legal points of discussion that each party in the case raises before the court. This section usually mentions the legal issues and the arguments that both counsels of the plaintiff and defendant raise.
How Are Court Dockets Used?
Legal teams primarily use court dockets as information sources to stay on top of everything and not overlook critical evidence.
A docket is a detailed record of a case covering everything in a legal proceeding.
During every stage in a court case, the court can use a docket to ensure that everyone involved is up-to-date on what has happened so far. A court docket can be especially helpful if the court transfers the matter to a new district, judge, or new counsel joins the case.
Where Can Court Docket Records Be Found?
Various websites and databases can allow the public to access court dockets. Typically, you need the docket number to locate a particular case.
It may be harder to conduct a docket search by number because they are not in a readable format.
Court dockets also may contain a mix of numbers, letters, and symbols.
So how can one get access to court docket records?
- Court websites - The judiciary has ensured general public access to court records. Most records are available electronically. Most courts have self-help websites where people can obtain the dockets. However, most of these websites just redirect a person to PACER, discussed below.
- PACER - This is the government's Public Access to Court Electronic Records website where you can find case information from federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts.
- Courthouse - The clerks of courts are responsible for maintaining court systems. The clerk generally maintains dockets in the court where the plaintiff filed the case. One can physically go to the courthouse and ask the clerk to access these records. Court dockets, unless sealed, are public records, so this shouldn't be a problem.
Some of the other databases one can use to get court docket records include:
- The U.S. Supreme Court - One can find specific documents, including court dockets, on the Supreme Court's website, and at no charge.
- RECAP - This is PACER spelled backward. It's a free, publicly accessible database of federal court filings.
- Bloomberg Law - This database has case documents and dockets for select state and federal courts. You can access these through its Litigation Intelligence Center.
- Lexis - This resource contains many case documents from federal courts. It is one of the largest databases of public and proprietary information featuring over 84 billion public records from over 10,000 sources, including public, private, regulated, emerging, and derived data. With such an extensive library of public records, one can be sure that finding court dockets on Lexis is a breeze.
- Justia - Contains some documents and case dockets for U.S. District Courts and Courts of Appeal. The Justia Docket Search is a free court case search engine linked to PACER containing preliminary information about cases from 2004 (and a few from even earlier). The results provide basic information on a matter and link directly to PACER, giving additional results like the full docket sheet and links to full-text filings. Some cases may also include free copies of the documents themselves.
- CourtLink - This database provides access to an extensive collection of records and dockets such as Probate Court cases, Circuit Court cases, and County Court cases. It allows users to set alerts and track legal proceedings.