Docket

A colloquial term used to denote the diary of a court or judge. In practice it means the cases before a particular court, and with respect to a particular case, the pleadings, motions and hearings filed with or scheduled before a particular court or judge. Courts are described as having a ‘full docket’ or a ‘busy docket’ when most of their time is allocated.

Courts are describes as having a ‘mixed docket’ when they can hear different types of cases, such as both criminal and civil cases. Where a court does have a mixed docket, this can be a drawback, because criminal cases in most legal systems take priority over civil cases (under for example the US Speedy Trial Act of 1974.) US Federal District Courts notably have a mixed docket. Other countries such as England and Ireland have some separate criminal and civil courts of first instance, though some judges may rotate between civil and criminal courts.

The transparency of court dockets, especially for civil cases, can vary significantly between legal systems. Thus US courts, which traditionally have had a commitment to open justice, make the docket visible to all persons, although the content of some pleadings may be filed ‘under seal pursuant to a ‘protective order‘ and all federal court pleadings are usually available via PACER. In English courts, although dockets are in principle available to the public, they can be hard to access in practice and may require visits to the courthouse. In other jurisdictions, for example Germany, dockets are much less transparent and it can be extremely difficult to research the litigation history of a party (i.e., have they been sued or have they sued before), or of, for example, a patent (has it been the subject of prior proceedings.)