A docket number is an alphanumeric number that courts use to identify a specific legal case. Each court system, from the United States Supreme Court to local courts, uses its own docket number system. When a court accepts a new case, it assigns the case a unique number that appears on all official court filings and documents at the top of the page.
Understanding Docket Numbers
The numbers and letters in a docket number are not idiosyncratic or randomly assigned. In many courts, they contain the two or four-digit year when the parties filed their first legal paperwork with the court. Sometimes docket numbers contain one or more letters that tell the court whether the case is civil, criminal or in the family division. Courts of Appeals, including the U.S. Supreme Court, also use lettering systems that make it easy for attorneys, paralegals, law students and other legal researchers to quickly identify the court to which a case belongs.
Finding a Docket Number
If you need the docket number for a case but don't know it, the court clerk can usually look the number up for you using the names of the parties involved, type of case and year the proceeding started.
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