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Upcoming Document Format Change for Electronically Filed Documents


In the future, the Federal Judiciary will require that all electronically filed documents uploaded in CM/ECF [Case Management/Electronic Case File] be in PDF/A [Portable Document Format/Archive] format. Currently, CM/ECF accepts both PDF and PDF/A documents. This move to a PDF/A standard is viewed as a necessary step to enhance CM/ECF security and to improve the archiving and preservation of case-related documents.

What is PDF/A?

PDF/A is an International Standards Organization (ISO) standard document format.

PDF/A documents are self-contained and do not rely on or access information outside of the document itself to display the information contained within the document. Accordingly, the PDF/A document appears, and will continue to appear, identical to the document from which it was created, no matter where or when it is accessed. As a result, most PDF/A documents will have a slightly larger file size.

How are PDF/A documents created?

More than ninety commercial products can create PDF/A documents (many are listed at Create PDF/A and Convert PDF to PDF/A). The Court does not recommend any particular products.

  1. Creation from Electronic Documents.
    PDF/A documents can be created by most word processing programs. Descriptions of necessary settings are available for Microsoft Word settings for PDF/A and OpenOffice settings for PDF/A. Corel WordPerfect, and standard versions of Acrobat can create a PDF/A through the Print dialog box. Adobe has a tutorial geared toward Legal Professionals for the creation of PDF/A files.


  2. Creation from Scanned Documents.
    Some scanning software is capable of directly creating PDF/A format documents. If your software does not have the capability, the document may need to be scanned as a regular PDF and then converted. To keep file sizes down and to ensure that files are text-searchable, PDF/A documents should be created using a word processing program (like WordPerfect or Microsoft Word), rather than being printed out in hard copy and scanned.


  3. Creation from Petition Preparation Software.
    Some petition preparation software is capable of creating petitions and other documents in PDF/A format. Check with the vendor of any petition preparation software in use to make sure that it is PDF/A-ready. A filer using software that does not support PDF/A may need to acquire a product offering such capability.

What is the effective date of this change?

Although the Judiciary has not yet set a deadline for requiring all electronic files to be uploaded in PDF/A format, all users are encouraged to begin to transition their filings to this new standard as soon as possible.