How to Read a Court Docket

By Irwin Fletcher
Court dockets make it easy to see the schedule of upcoming cases before a particular court.

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The court docket, sometimes called the court calendar, is the list of upcoming court proceedings maintained by individual courts of a particular jurisdiction. Court dockets are public records and, as the name suggests, are available for any member of the public to access. Given the high profile of the cases, it is generally easier to access the docket for the Supreme Court of the United States; however, there are many resources available to easily retrieve the dockets of lower courts. Once you have located your docket of interest, it is relatively easy to read and understand it.

Reading a Court Docket

Locate the court docket you wish to read. Dockets can be found either within the physical courthouse itself, or through a variety of online resources.

Locate the relevant dates. The docket will include information about when the case was filed as well as a tentative date for when the case is scheduled to be heard. Case numbers are likewise issues chronologically, and you can get a general idea of the order of cases by following the numbers sequentially.

Determine the party names. The parties involved in a lawsuit are often distinguished by a "v." for versus. The docket will read in order of Plaintiff v. Defendant, respectively.

Locate which county the case will be heard in. This is listed clearly inline with the other relevant information to a particular case on the docket.

Determine what the general issue of the case is. The docket will include keywords to give you an idea of the nature of the case, i.e., whether the case involves a tort, criminal charge, bankruptcy etc.

Locate the motions filed. Some dockets may include a list of the motions that have been filed in connection with a case. This is often specific to each jurisdiction, so it is important to check with the guidelines posted by your particular docket of interest.

Understand the disposition of the case. Some cases may appear on the docket that have already been heard. In this situation, the docket will often include the judgment rendered.

About the Author

Irwin Fletcher has been writing since 2008, specializing in legal, finance and business topics. He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and real estate from Texas Christian University. Fletcher is also pursuing a Juris Doctor, focusing on environmental law, at Vermont Law School.

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