What is a Civil Docket?

Alexis W.
Alexis W.
A civil docket creates a time slot for a judge to hear from the parties on a case.
A civil docket creates a time slot for a judge to hear from the parties on a case.

A civil docket is a list of cases pending before a civil court. It is essentially a schedule that tells the judge and the plaintiffs and defendants what cases will be brought when. Cases are usually scheduled at least several weeks in advance, so interested parties can view the civil docket to determine what issues are being litigated at any given time.

Cases brought in civil court are private lawsuits between two citizens. In other words, no federal prosecutor or officer of the court brings cases in civil court. When official state action occurs, such as criminal court cases, the cases are normally brought in criminal court or in another division of the court system, such as tax court.

Civil courts are thus governed by laws detailing the duties people owe to each other. This is not to be confused with civil law systems. Civil law systems are those systems which do not rely on common law or judge made law. Civil courts can and do exist in common law jurisdictions, such as the United States and England.

Many cases brought in civil court and listed on the civil docket are grounded in tort law. Tort law is the field of law that allows one party to sue another if the defendant's intentional or negligent actions caused injury. The penalties for tort law cases are most often monetary and can include pain and suffering, actual economic losses such as lost wages, or cash compensation for other types of losses, such as compensation for wrongful death if a defendant's actions caused a victim's death.

When a person files a private lawsuit, his attorney files the papers with the court clerk. The notice that a lawsuit has been filed is prepared and the defendant is served, which means the notice of the lawsuit is formally delivered. The defendant is then able to respond, usually in writing, and may counter-sue or file his own actions.

Once a defendant has been served with papers, the case is scheduled on the civil docket. This means that a time slot is created on this civil docket in which the judge will hear from the parties on the case. This may be a one-time hearing, in which the two parties come into the court and the judge issues a simple ruling. More commonly, however, a full trial unfolds and a jury may be called in to determine the outcome of the case.

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Discussion Comments


It's a good thing they wait until after the defendant has been served papers to schedule cases on a civil docket. Imagine if they did things the other way around! A lot of people would be missing their court dates, that's for sure.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure they save dockets after the fact too. I believe you can access past dockets by doing a court records search at the courthouse or online. This could be useful if you're looking for information about a specific case, I guess.


@Azuza - I don't have any reason to check a docket or any other civil records right now, but it's good to know you can find that information online if you want!

Anyway, from what I understand, courthouse employees have the most reason to use a civil docket. I have a friend who works as an administrative assistant to a civil judge. Part of her job is creating the docket, and then keeping her judge informed about which cases are being tried when.


I discovered awhile ago that you can access almost any county docket online. All you have to do is go to the county court website and look for dockets. I assume this would work with state courts as well.

Although, I'm not sure why anyone would want to look at the days court docket online. If you were involved in a case, you would probably already know when it was. And if you're looking on information on an individual, most states have a case search where you can search people by name. That would probably be a lot faster than checking the docket online every day.

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    • A civil docket creates a time slot for a judge to hear from the parties on a case.
      A civil docket creates a time slot for a judge to hear from the parties on a case.