1. What is Electronic Case Filing (ECF)?
ECF allows attorneys to file petitions and other electronic documents with designated United States courts through the Internet by using a standard web browser. This results in a completely electronic "case file" that does not have any papers associated with it at the court. Therefore, all case information is available for examination electronically through the Internet, again through the use of a standard web browser. ECF has become the primary method for filing documents with the court and for retrieving case information from the court.
2. What are the benefits and features of using ECF?
There are a number of significant benefits and features:
a) registered attorneys are able to file and retrieve documents 24 hours per day, 7 days per week,
b) full case information is available to attorneys, parties and the general public through the Internet. This includes the ability to view the full text of all filed documents,
c) attorneys registered on the system receive notices of filed documents electronically,
d) since ECF uses Internet standard software, the out-of-pocket cost of participation for attorneys is typically very low, and
f) Pursuant 28. U.S.C. § 1930, a user fee, approved by the Judicial Conference of the United States, of eight cents per page will be applicable effective July 1, 2001.
3. How do I access ECF?
ECF can be used to file documents or to retrieve case iformation, including documents. To file using ECF, a filing login and password is required. The Court issues logins and passwords for filing and these are issued to attorneys only.
To retrieve case information and/or documents from ECF, a PACER login and password is required. Anyone may request a PACER login and password. To recieve a PACER login and password contact the PACER service ceneter at (800) 676-6856 or (210) 301-6440 or http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov
4. What if I can't use ECF to file or Is there any way for pro se filers or attorneys without Internet access to file documents in ECF cases?
Parties should submit disks when they can't file over the Internet. The document on disk should be a PDF or word processed document (we prefer any version of WordPerfect). Disks should be clearly labeled with the case number, the documents being filed and the file format (WordPerfect, PDF Win Zip etc.).
Proposed Orders should always be submitted on disk, in WordPerfectif possible, so that the Courtroom Deputy can modify the document and conform the Judge's signature if necessary. (Most word processing packages can save documents in some version of WordPerfect.)
The court can accept 3.5 floppy disks, CD-ROMs, 100 MB Zip Disks, as well as files that have been compressed with either Win Zip, PkZip or Gzip.
We do not accept any disks formatted for the Macintosh.
The Court will convert papers submitted by pro se filers to electronic format then file the scanned image into the ECF System.
5. What is needed to use ECF ?
Access to the Internet and Adobe Acrobat Exchange 3.0 or greater are the minimum requirements. If a modem is used to connect to the Internet, it should have a speed of at least 56k. A broadband internet connection should be used in lieu of a standard telephone line.
CM/ECF has been tested successfully using Internet Explorer 6.0 and Netscape 7.0 as representative browsers. Other browsers and browser versions may work as well. (Netscape 4.7 tested successfully with CM/ECF but that browser does not work with the Treasury Department's new pay.gov version that is used for payment of court fees.)
DO NOT USE America On Line's version of Netscape Navigator.
6. What is Adobe Acrobat?
Adobe Acrobat Exchange is commercial software from Adobe that allows a document to be saved in PDF (portable document format). All documents filed in ECF must be in PDF. Acrobat Exchange is available from commercial software retailers. Adobe also distributes Acrobat Reader which allows PDF Documents to be viewed and printed (but not create). The reader is free and can be downloaded from www.adobe.com.
7. How is payment of filing fees handled for ECF cases?
Registered users may pay for filings that require a fee online. After the document is submitted to the court and the receipt screen appears, a screen will prompt for credit card information and the fee can be paid. For more information see Credit Card Instructions
Non-Registered Users: For filings that require a fee, current rules for methods of payments must be followed.
8. How do I set up a credit card account to be used for ECF cases?
Attorneys may choose to open either a personal or business credit card to be used for filing fees.
The following are some suggestions from members of the bar on using credit cards for the payment of filing fees:
- Obtain a sufficient credit limit on the card. Communicate with the credit card company and tell the company what you're doing and how you will be using the credit card. Most credit card companies are willing to work with you on obtaining a higher limit for this usage.
- Obtain a credit card that you can track your balance/limit over the Internet.
- For bookkeeping purposes, use the card solely for court costs. Since filing fees have to be paid through trust accounts, having all filing fees paid through this credit card, one check can be cut from the trust account to pay for all filing fees for the month.
- Establish credit card through a bank that you deal with regularly.
9. How is the requirement of an original signature handled for ECF cases?
There are two distinct issues: attorney signatures and debtor signatures.
When registering to use the system, attorneys sign an agreement to the effect that use of their login name and password (whether by personally or by delegation to another person in their office) constitutes their signatures on the documents electronically filed.
For documents that must be signed by the debtor (such as petitions, lists, schedules, statements, etc.), originally executed paper copies must be kept by the debtor's attorney for five years. The electronically filed document will indicate a signature, e.g. "/s/ Jane Doe".
10. Can an attorney authorize someone to use the attorney's login name and password to file documents in ECF?
Yes, but the court recommends that such access be very limited and controlled since whatever is filed under that name and password is deemed to have the attorney's signature on it.
11. Known Bugs
· Printing a large docket sheet (over 50 pages) produces a 'Data Missing' error. Users should run the report in smaller date ranges.
· Times out after 30 minutes of inactivity. Sometimes a large document can take longer than 30 minutes to transfer. The system registers inactivity during a document transfer. To avoid being timed out, users should open a new Web browser, from the File Menu in their Browser. This starts a new session which registers 'activity' and extends the 'time out' time by another 30 minutes. The second Browser session should be minimized.
· When submitting an Answer to a Complaint, if the defendant was not entered at the time the complaint was uploaded, the user will get the message "No unanswered docket entries exist for the party on whose behalf you are filing." To docket the answer the user must select Bankruptcy Events, enter the AP number, then select Response, then select Other Answers, and refer to the Complaint from the list of documents. In the docket text the user can type (Complaint) after the word Answer.
12. Policy Questions
Can a document be deleted ?
- No documents can be deleted (or modified) on the Electronic Filing System. If an attorney submits the wrong document he must submit the correct document and insert the word "Amend" in the docket text. The user can also optionally refer back to the incorrect document (using the related document screen), when he submits the amended document.
Can the docket text be modified ?
- The docket text can be modified by court users only.