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Dockets and court filings research

Starting Your Docket Search

1) Federal or State: do you need a docket for a federal or state case?

  • Federal: Bloomberg Law, Westlaw, Lexis, or ask a librarian about accessing PACER
  • State: try to find a free court website before accessing a subscription database

2) Time frame: older materials may not be available electronically

  • Check date coverage information for electronic database

3) Filings: Do you just need the docket sheet, or do you also need to access the underlying filings? 

  • Fewer resources are going to provide access to filings, but you can often look many places for the docket sheet. 
  • In the box to the right is an edited version of a docket sheet.  It is typical in that it doesn't provide links to the actual documents.  Some databases, such as PACER, do provide such links.  

    What Are Dockets, And Why Would I Want To Find One?

    Dockets basically are a summary of proceedings in a case.   They provide a handy way of keeping track of what is happening (or what happened) in a particular case and can also lead a researcher to the documents that were filed in that case.  A docket sheet will typically supply the names of the parties and attorneys, the docket number and the name of judge, and important dates(e.g., the date that the case was filed, when the last action occurred). 

    Most importantly, a docket will provide a list of actions that have occurred since the case was filed.  For example, you could see when documents such as pleadings, motions, or briefs were filed or served.  Some electronic dockets will also provide access to an electronic version, such as a PDF, of the actual filings.  PACER, for example, usually supplies links to many of the documents that are referenced on a case's docket sheet.  This guide will indicate when filings are available.

    A Docket Sheet at a Glance...


    United States Supreme Court

    US Supreme - Washington DC
    District of Columbia, et al., Petitioners v. Dick Anthony Heller


    02/11/2008 Brief amicus curiae of National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc. filed. (Distributed)
    02/11/2008 Brief amici curiae of International Scholars filed. (Distributed)
    02/25/2008 Motion of Texas, et al. for leave to participate in oral argument as amici curiae and for divided argument, and, in the alternative, for enlargement of time for oral argument DENIED.
    02/25/2008 Motion of the Solicitor General for enlargement of time for oral argument, for leave to participate in oral argument as amicus curiae and for divided argument GRANTED.
    02/28/2008 Motion for leave to file amicus brief out of time filed by Wisconsin. (Distributed)
    03/05/2008 Reply of petitioners District of Columbia, et al. filed. (Distributed)
    03/14/2008 Letter, dated March 12, 2008, received from counsel for the petitioners. (Distributed).
    03/17/2008 Motion for leave to file amicus brief out of time filed by Wisconsin GRANTED.
    03/18/2008 Argued. For petitioners: Walter Dellinger, Washington, D.C. For United States as amicus curiae: Paul D. Clement, Solicitor General, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. For respondent: Alan Gura, Alexandria, Va.
    06/26/2008 Adjudged to be AFFIRMED. Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined.
    07/28/2008 Judgment Issued.
    07/31/2008 Record returned to the U.S.C.A. for the District of Columbia Circuit.
    08/12/2008 Acknowledgement of receipt (07/28/08) of judgment from Clerk, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit received.