Federal and State Docket Research

This guide is created to introduce the major resources and basic strategies of conducting docket research.


A docket is " [a] log containing the complete history of each case in the form of brief chronological entries summarizing the court proceedings.

Courts assign each newly filed action with a docket number. A case filed in a federal court in the 4th Circuit may be assigned a docket number like this: 3:2020-CV-02355-AS. 

3 refers to the divisional court number. 

2020 refers to the year the case was filed. 

CV refers to the nature of the suit, a civil proceeding in this case. 

02355 indicates that it was the 2355th case filed in the year 2020. 

AS refers to the initials of the district court judge. 









Purpose of Docket Research

Docket research can be helpful when you need to:

Access court documents, especially with a pending case or cases not to be reported in a court reporter;

Track the status of a pending case;

Conduct investigative research of a judge, attorney, and prospective client; 

Find sample briefs, motions, and orders of a similar type of case; or 

Conduct empirical research.