In most jurisdictions around the world, a record of everything that happens in a court case is recorded on docket sheets. Both civil and criminal case records include docket sheets as part of the official file kept at the courthouse. Information typically found on a docket sheet includes attorney appearances, documents filed, summaries of hearings, and notes made by the judge.
When a civil case is initially filed with a court, or criminal charges are filed against a defendant, a file is created in the court where the case will be heard. The court needs a way to keep track of everything that happens during the pendency of the case, as well as all documents filed in the case. For these reasons, docket sheets are placed in case files immediately upon the creation of the file.
The names of the parties to the case and the case or cause number are the first pieces of information recorded on docket sheets. When an attorney enters an appearance, the attorney's name and contact information will be recorded on the docket sheet, as well as which party he or she represents. In a criminal case, the initial appearance and arraignment of the defendant will be noted on the docket sheet while civil court docket sheets will note the first pretrial hearing as the first entry in most cases.
All documents filed in either a criminal or civil case will be recorded on the docket sheet. The date the document was filed and which party filed the document will also be included. A judge may also make notes on docket sheets as a way to remind himself or herself what transpired during a hearing. All orders of the court will also be found on a docket sheet.
At the conclusion of a criminal case, the terms of a plea agreement will be included or the verdict and sentence imposed on the defendant will be recorded on the docket sheet. When a civil case is concluded, the docket sheet may include the terms of an agreement of the parties, or decisions of the judge or jury if the parties were unable to reach a mutual agreement short of trial. The final entry on all docket sheets will be an indication that the case has been closed.
In most jurisdictions, docket sheets are considered to be public information for most cases. As public information, anyone may request a copy of the docket sheet at any time. Requesting a copy of a docket sheet can be an excellent and quick way to obtain a summary of a court case. The exception to the public information rule is in juvenile matters or adoptions, as those records are generally sealed to the public.