A court docket is a list of all of the cases awaiting action in a court of law. Depending on the court, it is not uncommon for a large majority of the cases placed on the docket to never actually make it into court; they may be withdrawn for a variety of reasons, ranging from reaching an out of court settlement to needing to refile in light of new evidence. Most courts make their dockets available to the public, although sometimes it can be difficult to access docket records.
Historically, the docket was a literal object. The clerk of the court kept a large folio known as a docket in which information about the court was recorded. The court docket included not only lists of pending actions, but also the outcomes of trials, and detailed discussions of motions filed and other matters which appeared in court. In some areas of the world, folios are still in use, but more commonly, electronic systems are used to manage the court docket.
People sometimes use the word “docket” to refer to schedule, and a docket can include information about when a hearing is scheduled, and specific days when the court will be open. It is also possible to look up the court docket for a particular case to access detailed information about the case, including records of motions filed and other actions taken in relation to the case. It is the responsibility of the clerk of the court to keep this information accurate and current.
To get on the court docket, a filing fee usually needs to be paid, and documents pertaining to the case must be filed. In some courts, such as the Supreme Court of the United States, applications to appear in court outnumber the available slots for appearances. In these courts, the judges decide which cases to try. In lower courts, where everyone's right to appear in court is protected, a backlog of cases can mean that it takes months or years for a case to reach trial.
Several online databases provide docketing information. Some nations are better than others when it comes to getting information online. Such systems usually have search functions which allow people to look up specific cases or subjects, and some may display archival records pertaining to historic cases of interest. For information about a specific court, it is sometimes better to contact the clerk of the court directly to get the needed data.