How to look up a docket number

You can access public electronic Trial Court case docket information in person or online. You can access electronic case information for SJC and Appeals Court cases here.

  • To access electronic case information for attorneys, see view electronic case information through the Attorney Portal
  • To find judicial calendars, see view court calendars
  • To get a copy of your divorce record, please see Get a copy of your divorce record
  • To find old court records, please see Accessing Court Archives.

You’ll need a public terminal computer, which you can find at any Massachusetts courthouse, County Registry of Deeds sites or a supported browser:

  • Internet Explorer, Version 7 or higher
  • Firefox
  • Chrome

How to view How to search court dockets

In person

State Courthouses

Trial Court case information is available at designated public access computers located in District, Boston Municipal, Probate and Family, Superior, Housing, and Land Courts and County Registry of Deeds sites.

The public access PCs run the eAccess application and allow searches by name, case type, and case number. The search results display case information, including party, event, docket, and disposition details. However, you can’t view case documents. Actual case documents are available for public inspection in the Clerk, Register, and Recorder’s Offices.

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.

This article was co-authored by Clinton M. Sandvick, JD, PhD. Clinton M. Sandvick worked as a civil litigator in California for over 7 years. He received his JD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1998 and his PhD in American History from the University of Oregon in 2013.

There are 17 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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The United States has a dual court system. Each state has its own courts that apply the laws of that state. The other part of the system is federal court. There are 94 district courts, as well as appeals courts and specialized forums such as bankruptcy courts. [1] X Research source The final court of appeals for all cases is The Supreme Court of the United States. [2] X Research source Each court has its own docket, or list of cases that have been filed for that court’s review. Docket numbers, sometimes called file numbers or case numbers, are how the court identifies each case. Included in the numbers are codes telling the judges, clerks, and lawyers when the case was filed and what type of case it is. [3] X Research source Learning to understand the code will help you look up a docket number and get information on the court proceeding.

This page tells you about:

No. Not all documents in a court file are public. You are not allowed to see or copy the following:

  • an arrest report or any other document that lists a victim’s name, address, or telephone number
  • probation reports
  • domestic violence protective orders
  • Own Recognizance (O.R.) reports
  • criminal history information
  • financial or medical information

To see or copy public records, you must have the case number.

There are three ways to get the case number:

    If the case was filed in 2004 or later, use the criminal case index search. You can search for a case number using either the defendant’s name and date of birth, or the defendant’s name plus the month and year the case was filed.

Go to the Clerk’s Office where the case is filed. The information below will help you identify
Courthouses where criminal cases are filed in Santa Clara County:

    , 190 West Hedding Street, San Jose, CA 95110 (handles criminal matters for San Jose, Milpitas, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, and Santa Clara)

, 301 Diana Avenue, Morgan Hill, CA 95037 (handles criminal matters for San Martin, Morgan Hill, and Gilroy)

  • defendant’s name,
  • defendant’s date of birth and
  • years you want searched.

Write a letter saying what documents you want. Be specific. Give the case number, the full name of the defendant and his/her date of birth and the name of the documents you want.

  • minute order from [you must list a specific court date]
  • docket
  • sentencing
  • complaint

The Clerk’s Office charges you for each page you want copied. So, if you are not sure of the number of pages, check the fee schedule and make a check out for an amount you think will be enough. On your check you can write “not to exceed $10.00”

Make your check payable to: Clerk of the Superior Court
Memo: [your case number]

Attach a self-addressed, stamped envelope with your letter.

How do I get a copy of my local criminal history?

Go to the Sheriff’s Office
55 West Younger Avenue,
San Jose, CA 95110
[Open 24 hours]

To make an appointment, call:
(408) 808-4705

Bring identification and be prepared to pay a fee.

How do I get a copy of a police report after a traffic accident?

Contact the police agency that investigated the accident.

How do I get a copy of a police report after a crime?

If you were the victim, contact the police agency that investigated the crime.

If you were the defendant in a criminal case and your case is complete, get a copy of the police report from the court. The court will charge you a copy fee for the front and back of each page.

If you are the defendant in a criminal case and your case is not complete, (you have not been sentenced or the case has not been dismissed), get a copy of the police report from the District Attorney’s office.

Can I get a copy of the police report if I was not involved in the crime?

If you are not the victim or defendant, you can get a copy of the police report from the court. You must give the clerk the case number. Click here if you don’t know the case number.

Given the many user-friendly features on Westlaw Edge, it probably isn’t surprising to hear that you can actually find most things in a variety of ways, including dockets. In fact, even if you don’t have the docket number — also known as a case number or file number — you can complete a docket search with just a few clicks.

Court docket search: the basic steps

Whether you want to know how to find a case number online or you already have the docket number and simply want to pull up the docket, Westlaw Edge makes it easy.

Step 1: Pull up the dockets page in Westlaw Edge

Simply click on the “Dockets” link, which you can find on the main page in Westlaw Edge under the “Content types” tab. You can also use the global search bar at the top to search for “dockets” and select the appropriate suggestion. Both of these options get you to the same place.

How to look up a docket number

Step 2: Pick the court you need the docket from

Once on the docket page, you have a couple of options. You can either:

  1. Click on the specific court or jurisdiction you are interested in, like the U.S. Supreme Court; or
  2. Check the boxes next to the courts or jurisdictions you want to search and enter your search terms in the global search bar at the top.
    NOTE: The “Specify content to search” option much be selected if you want to see/use these check boxes.

How to look up a docket number

Note that there are many jurisdictions from which to choose, ranging from all federal dockets to all state dockets, and everything in between. In many instances, you will only be interested in one court or jurisdiction, in which case the first option above will likely be your best choice. This will typically give you more control and allow you to use templates for your docket lookup.

For example, if you were to click on “U.S. Supreme Court,” it will bring you directly to a docket search page where you can use a template to search by participant name, docket number, attorney or law firm name, and filing date.

And if you were to click on a broader jurisdiction — say California dockets — you will have the option to narrow down the jurisdiction even further, including options to search specific federal courts within that state, specific state courts, specific counties, etc. And once you drill down and get to the specific court you need, you will be able to search using a template.

Step 3: Run your court docket search

Once you get to the specific search template for the court you need, enter in your search information. While the templates may vary from court to court, you will typically be able to search by party/participant name, filing date, key search terms, attorney/firm names, and, of course, docket number.

How to look up a docket number

For instance, if you already have the docket number, enter it in the proper field to run a docket number search. But make sure to use the correct format if searching the full docket number. If you aren’t sure about the format, you can find additional information by clicking on the scope icon:

But even if you don’t have the docket or case number, you can still run a search using the other template options.

After you run your search, just pick the correct docket from the results list. That’s it. Just a few clicks and one easy search to look up the docket you need.

Docket lookup using the case citation

If you have a case citation, there is another easy way to look up the case number or to pull up the docket itself.

Simply “find” the case in Westlaw Edge by typing “find:” followed by the case citation into the global search bar at the top.

And if you only need the docket/case number, it will be listed right at the top of the case below the party names.

How to look up a docket number

But, if you need to look at the docket itself, you can do that with three easy clicks:

  1. Select “Filings” on the top left corner of the case
  2. Select “Dockets” in the left-hand margin
  3. Select the docket you want to view — but make sure to pick the docket for the specific court you want since more than one docket may be listed if multiple courts have dealt with the case

How to look up a docket number

As we mentioned earlier, though, there are several ways to find dockets and docket-related information on Westlaw Edge, and these are just a few.

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Do you need a specific case or court opinion and all you have is the docket number? Don’t worry, you already have everything you need — so long as you have access to Westlaw Edge. In fact, in most situations, you can find a case by its docket number with just a few clicks and one simple search.

1. You can search case law to find a court case by docket number

The first place to look on Westlaw Edge if you need to find a case by docket number is one of its many case law databases, which we typically refer to as “content sets.” And as with anything on Westlaw Edge, you have several options for locating the right content set.

For example, if the court opinion you want was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, here are two of the easiest ways to find the content set you need:

  1. Type “U.S. Supreme Court cases” in the global search bar at the top of the page and select the correct “Suggestion” that populates below the search box
  2. On the Westlaw Edge home page, select “Cases” from the “Content types” tab, and then select “U.S. Supreme Court” on the next page

Remember, either option gets you to the exact same place — and you can use this same general process for other courts besides the U.S. Supreme Court.

How to look up a docket number

Next, click on the “Advanced” link to the right of the global search bar. This will pull up a template in which you can enter in any information you may have about the case you are trying to find, including the docket number.

Once you are on the template search page, scroll down until you find the field titled “Docket Number.” Simply type in the docket number and run your search. The case you need will be in your results list. That’s it. Didn’t we tell you that finding a case by docket number is easy?

How to look up a docket number

2. You can search in trial court orders to find a case by docket number

If the court opinion or decision you need isn’t published or otherwise available in case law, it doesn’t hurt to check out trial court orders, which is another content option available on Westlaw Edge.

As with case law, there are a many simple ways to find trial court orders on Westlaw Edge. For instance, if you want to search California civil trial court orders, either of the following two options will get you to the right page:

  1. Type “California trial court orders” in the global search bar at the top of the page and select the correct “Suggestion” that populates below
  2. On the Westlaw Edge home page, select “Trial Court Orders” from the “Content types” tab, and then select “California” on the next page

How to look up a docket number

And just like searching case law, all you need to do is click “Advanced” to the right of the global search bar to pull up the search template. Then you type the docket number into the “Docket Number” field and run your search.

How to look up a docket number

3. You can search in the dockets themselves to find a court order or opinion

If you have tried both options above and you are still having trouble finding the court opinion you need, there is another place you can look: the docket itself.

In fact, many dockets — particularly federal dockets — will include PDF versions of opinions and decisions issued by the court for that specific case.

There are several ways to find dockets on Westlaw Edge, but one of the easiest is to use the global search bar at the top. For example, if you need a docket from a federal district court in California — specifically the Southern District — type “California federal district court dockets” in the global search bar and select the correct “Suggestion.”

How to look up a docket number

This will bring you to another template search page where you can type the docket number of the case you need into the “Docket Number” field. And then run your search and pick the case you are interested in from the results list.

Once you are in the docket itself, scroll down until you find the order or decision you need. Typically, the dockets are organized in reverse chronological order, so if you know the date of the opinion or court order, it will help you find what you need more quickly.

If the court order is available in the docket, there will be a PDF link with the word “View” next to it, which you can click to access.

How to look up a docket number

As you can see, there are many ways to find a case or court order on Westlaw Edge. And if you ever need help, you can always contact our Reference Attorneys, who are bar-admitted lawyers and experts on Westlaw, including its databases, features, and functionality.

New to Patent Searching? See this important information about searching for patents:

The Seven Step Strategy – Outlines a suggested procedure for patent searching

Patents may be searched using the following resources:

USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database (PatFT)

Inventors are encouraged to search the USPTO’s patent database to see if a patent has already been filed or granted that is similar to your patent. Patents may be searched in the USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database (PatFT). The USPTO houses full text for patents issued from 1976 to the present and PDF images for all patents from 1790 to the present.

Searching Full Text Patents (Since 1976)

Customize a search on all or a selected group of elements (fields) of a patent.

Searching PDF Image Patents (Since 1790)

Searches are limited to patent numbers and/or classification codes for pre-1976 patents.

USPTO Patent Application Full-Text and Image Database (AppFT)

Search for Full-Text and Image versions of patent applications. Customize searches on all fields of a patent application in the AppFT for Full-Text searches.

Searches are limited to patent numbers and/or classification codes for Full-Page images.

Global Dossier

Global Dossier is a set of business services aimed at modernizing the global patent system and delivering benefits to all stakeholders through a single portal/user interface. Through this secure service, users have access to the file histories of related applications from participating IP Offices, which currently include the IP5 Offices.

By using this service, users can see the patent family for a specific application, containing all related applications filed at participating IP Offices, along with the dossier, classification, and citation data for these applications. This service also provides Office Action Indicators to help users identify applications that contain office actions, a Collections View for saving documents and applications for review later on in the session, and the ability to download the documents in an application.

Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR)

The Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system provides IP customers a safe, simple, and secure way to retrieve and download information regarding patent application status.

Public Search Facility

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Public Search Facility located in Alexandria, VA provides the public access to patent and trademark information in a variety of formats including on-line, microfilm, and print. Trained staff are available to assist public users.

Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs)

Your nearest Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) maintains local search resources and may offer training in patent search techniques.

Patent Official Gazette

The Electronic Official Gazette allows users to browse through the issued patents for the current week. The Official Gazette can be browsed by classification or type of patent, for example, utility, design, and plant.

Common Citation Document (CCD)

The Common Citation Document (CCD) application aims to provide single point access to up-to-date citation data relating to the patent applications of the IP5 Offices. It consolidates the prior art cited by all participating offices for the family members of a patent application, thus enabling the search results for the same invention produced by several offices to be visualized on a single page. The creation of the CCD application is part of an ongoing process of technical harmonization at international level aimed at establishing an appropriate infrastructure to facilitate greater integration of the global patent system.

Search International Patent Offices

To see if your idea has been patented abroad, you’ll want to refer to searchable databases made available from other International Intellectual Property offices.

Free online access to patent collections is provided by many countries. Some available databases include:

  • European Patent Office (EPO) provides [email protected] a network of Europe’s patent databases- This site also provides access to machine translation of European patents for some languages. (JPO) – This site also provides access to machine translations of Japanese patents.
  • World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) provides PATENTSCOPE ® Search Service, which features a full-text search of published international patent applications and machine translations for some documents as well as a list of international patent databases. (SIPO) of the People’s Republic of China. This site provides access to machine translation of Chinese patents.
  • Other International Intellectual Property Offices that provide searchable patent databases include: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan.

Stopfakes.Gov provides informative Toolkits that give an overview of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) environment in various countries around the world.

For additional search resources, contact your local Patent and Trademark Depository Library , visit the USPTO Public Search Facility or the USPTO Main STIC Library. The staff in the Main STIC Library are experts on foreign patents and able to help the public as needed.

Search Published Sequences

The Publication Site for Issued and Published Sequences (PSIPS) web site provides Sequence Listings, tables, and other mega items for granted US patents or published US patent applications.

All sequences (SEQ ID NOs.) and tables for listed patents or publications are available for viewing, without downloading, by accessing the proper document detail page and then submitting a SEQ ID NO or a mega table ID number.

Patent Assignment Search

Visit the Patent Assignment Search website to search for patent assignments and changes in ownership.

Patent Examination Data System (PEDS)

The Patent Examination Data System (PEDS) in the Amazon Cloud provides public users the ability to search, view and download bibliographic data for all publicly available Patent applications in a secure manner. The solution allows public users to search and download bibliographic data in bulk as well as manage the volume of data that can be downloaded at any given period of time by a particular user.

Courts assign each case case a docket number to make it easier to track. Usually, it's not necessary to understand how docket numbers are assigned to use them to retrieve cases. However, understanding how docket numbers are constructed can be helpful for correcting mistyped docket numbers and determining where and when a case was filed.

Each court generally has its own system for assigning docket numbers, which may include some or all of the following:

  • The year the case was filed, in two or four digit format.
  • The court the case was filed in, represented by a letter or number.
  • The type of case (e.g. civil, criminal, bankruptcy).
  • A sequence number, randomly assigned to each case as it is filed.

To learn how a specific court assigns docket numbers, check:

  • The court's website
  • Westlaw's source information for the court, which generally explains how the court assigns docket numbers. To view this information, navigate to the court's page in Westlaw's Dockets section and then click the i symbol beneath the court's name.

Common sources of confusion include:

  • Skipping or altering punctuation (2:14-ap-123456 vs. 214ap123456)
  • Skipping or adding leading zeros (7-4771 vs. 07-04771).
  • Skipping or altering parts of the docket number. In particular:
    • Letters indicating case type are often skipped (2:14-ap-123456 vs. 2:14-123456; C-07-04771 vs. 07-04771)
    • Letters at the end of the number are usually local notes such as, e.g. the judge's initials, and are commonly skipped (2:14-cv-123456-ABC-RZ vs. 2:14-cv-123456).

    California Docket Numbers

    California Supreme and Appeals Court docket numbers are assigned uniformly throughout the state, but each county has its own system for assigning docket numbers and the formats vary widely.

    Check the individual county court website or Westlaw for details on how counties outside of LA assign their docket numbers.

    How to look up a docket number

    By consulting the California Courts of Appeals case number prefixes, we can tell that the above docket is a second district Court of Appeals case with the sequence number 12345. California Courts of Appeals cases are given prefixes A through G, while California Supreme Court cases are given the prefix S.

    How to look up a docket number

    By consulting the LA County Superior Court's case number prefix matrix, we can tell the above docket is in the central district (B) is a civil case (C) and has the sequence number 123456.

    Federal Docket Numbers

    Each circuit and district assigns docket numbers independently but uses the same basic format. As a result, the same docket number may be assigned to different cases in different courts. For example:

    • The docket number 14-1234 might refer to a 2014 appellate case filed in any of the circuits or the Supreme Court.
    • The docket number 2:14-cv-123456 may refer to a case filed in Los Angeles (court 2 in the Central District of California), Memphis (court 2 in the Western District of Tennessee), Phoenix (court 2 in the District of Arizona), or any other court assigned the number 2 within its district.

    How to look up a docket number

    The docket number above tells us that this case was filed in 2014, with the sequence number 12345. It might be from the Supreme Court or from any Court of Appeals- based on the docket number alone there is no way to tell.

    How to look up a docket number

    The docket number above tells us that the case is from a district court that has been assigned the number 2 within its district, was filed in 2014, and is an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court, with the sequence number 123456. It might be from a court in any district- based on the docket number alone there is no way to tell.

    Common case types include:

    • cv for civil
    • cr for criminal
    • br for bankruptcy

    When searching for a docket, skip any letters or numbers after the sequence number. These are not officially part of the docket number but simply local notes, typically the judge's initials and sometimes information about the type of case. For example:

    • VZ for Judge Vincent Zurzolo
    • ABC-RZ for Judge Audrey B. Collins and Magistrate Judge Ralph Zarefsky
    • UA-DUTY for unassigned judge and on duty magistrate
    • TOM13 for Judge Tamara O. Mitchell and Chapter 13 bankruptcy

    For details on court numbers, case type abbreviations, and local notes, check the court's website, such as the California Central District's district court website (scroll down to Case Naming Conventions) and the bankruptcy court website.