A civil docket is a list of cases pending before a civil court. It is essentially a schedule that tells the judge and the plaintiffs and defendants what cases will be brought when. Cases are usually scheduled at least several weeks in advance, so interested parties can view the civil docket to determine what issues are being litigated at any given time.
Cases brought in civil court are private lawsuits between two citizens. In other words, no federal prosecutor or officer of the court brings cases in civil court. When official state action occurs, such as criminal court cases, the cases are normally brought in criminal court or in another division of the court system, such as tax court.
Civil courts are thus governed by laws detailing the duties people owe to each other. This is not to be confused with civil law systems. Civil law systems are those systems which do not rely on common law or judge made law. Civil courts can and do exist in common law jurisdictions, such as the United States and England.
Many cases brought in civil court and listed on the civil docket are grounded in tort law. Tort law is the field of law that allows one party to sue another if the defendant's intentional or negligent actions caused injury. The penalties for tort law cases are most often monetary and can include pain and suffering, actual economic losses such as lost wages, or cash compensation for other types of losses, such as compensation for wrongful death if a defendant's actions caused a victim's death.
When a person files a private lawsuit, his attorney files the papers with the court clerk. The notice that a lawsuit has been filed is prepared and the defendant is served, which means the notice of the lawsuit is formally delivered. The defendant is then able to respond, usually in writing, and may counter-sue or file his own actions.
Once a defendant has been served with papers, the case is scheduled on the civil docket. This means that a time slot is created on this civil docket in which the judge will hear from the parties on the case. This may be a one-time hearing, in which the two parties come into the court and the judge issues a simple ruling. More commonly, however, a full trial unfolds and a jury may be called in to determine the outcome of the case.