How to Search Court Dockets Online
Going through court proceedings, whether you’re dealing with a minor offense or something more serious, can be nerve-wracking. For a lot of individuals, doing the small things like obtaining or even understanding the importance of a court docket can be very tricky.
Use this guide to learn more about how to obtain a court docket and do a proper search when the court system in your jurisdiction does not make it easy for you. It may take some legwork on your part, but obtaining a docket for your case isn’t impossible.
What is a Court Docket
A court docket, in the simplest terms, is a record of court proceedings. Depending on the state and jurisdiction where the court proceedings are held, the docket may contain different information. That’s because some courts record more information than others. Common information found in a court docket might include:
- Case or docket number
- Case name
- Parties involved, including attorneys
- Filing date
- Docket date, meaning the date the case was scheduled for a hearing
- Reference to materials filed by the court or any party
- Case decision and decision date
- Rehearing information
These are just a few of the most common things found in a formal court docket. In most cases, dockets are relatively complete, helping paint the picture of a hearing or trial once finished.
Types of Court Dockets
Court dockets generally contain the same types of information depending on their particular jurisdiction. In some cases, like high-profile criminal cases, you may find that the docket is more complete and thorough. Common types of court dockets include:
- Criminal court dockets
- Civil court dockets
- Family court dockets
- Bankruptcy court dockets
- Court of appeals dockets
While these are the most common types of dockets available to access, any type of court that holds hearings must create a docket. Some may be harder to track down than others, but court dockets are a part of every court system in the US, no matter how big or small the case.
How to Get a Copy of a Court Docket
Obtaining copies of official court dockets can be difficult to do in some jurisdictions. The older the case becomes, the harder it can be to obtain a docket as well. Here are a few ways to get official court docket copies that may be effective:
- Obtain the docket number. Tracking down a court docket with this basic number will be much easier.
- Visit the court’s clerk’s office. A court clerk may be able to provide a court docket to you in some cases.
- Check the National Archives database. A variety of court records and dockets for closed cases of many types are available online through this system. The National Archives register may also help you track down the docket number and court of filing if you need a certified copy.
- Contact an attorney that was involved in the case. They may be able to provide you with the docket number or point you to the appropriate place to obtain a docket copy.
PACER Court Dockets
PACER, or public access to court electronic records, is a system that allows access to federal court docket sheets. PACER was designed to provide access to legal information for a variety of purposes, including those of the public interest, attorneys and legal counsel groups.
As of 2018, PACER charges $0.08 per page for access to court docket sheets within their system. You’ll need to register before you can gain access to dockets within the system. Depending on the time the case was tried, it may or may not be registered within the PACER system. However, it is still an excellent resource, as many federal cases do have dockets available within PACER.
Public Court Record Dockets
Obtaining court dockets through official channels can be difficult. If you’re simply looking for information and don’t need official copies, online third-party databases may be an easier choice. Databases like Search Quarry can help you obtain public records so you can get the information you need faster.
In general, small fees are charged for obtaining court dockets through third-party websites. However, the convenience of these services often offset the fees charged.
The Importance of a Court Docket
Having a copy of the court docket for a case you were involved in can help you later if questions around the trial come up. They can also help you keep track of the case, involved parties, and the specifics of the case down the road.
If filing a court appeal or dealing with a retrial, court dockets are essential for attorneys and individuals involved. Access to court dockets can also be very important for attorneys and legal students looking for information about specific or high-profile cases for learning purposes.
Obtaining a court docket can seem difficult, but there are multiple avenues out there to help you do it. Use these tips to get the court docket and records you need for your defense, retrial or educational purposes.