1. What is CM/ECF anyway?
CM/ECF stands for Case Management / Electronic Case Files. It is a joint project of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the federal courts to replace existing case management systems with a new system based on current technology, new software and increased functionality. This new system allows us to offer web access to the court's docket 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and to allow electronic document filing in designated cases.
2. What are electronic (ECF) cases?
Electronic (or ECF) cases are those cases in which the court is requiring all filings to be filed electronically over the internet. No paper filings are allowed in ECF cases.
3. Are there any fees to use CM/ECF?
There is no fee to file documents using the CM/ECF system. Access to view documents is available through PACER and the current fees for PACER usage will apply to documents and reports viewed through CM/ECF. As of January 1, 2005 the fee will be $.08 per page, up to $2.40 per document. The court also has a public terminal available in the Clerk's Office which is available to use free of charge.
Attorneys get one free look at documents filed electronically in their cases by viewing the document through their Notice of Electronic Filing delivered to the email address(es) listed in the attorney's CM/ECF Email Information screen within 15 days of the file date.
4. How do I get an account? (See our Accounts page for more info.)
To get a CM/ECF filing account from our court you need to meet the following conditions.
- Must be an attorney who is a member of the Court of Federal Claims Bar.
- Submit an online registration form.
- Pass our online Certification Test with a score of at least 75%.
To get a PACER account you need to contact the PACER Service Center.
5. How long does it take to get my account?
Once you meet the 3 requirements, your account should be emailed to you within 1 business day. If you need your account right away to file a document, call us toll free at 1-866-784-6273 (9am - 5 pm EST
) and we will try to expedite the process.
6. What computer stuff do I need to have?
- A computer with a standard operating system
- A word processing program
- One of these browsers: Netscape 4.7 or 7.0 or Internet Explorer 5.5 or 6.0
- PDF software (reader to view and writer/converter to file)
- Internet connection
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Accessing the System
1. Can I use my CM/ECF account from another court?
No, each court maintains its own CM/ECF system and procedures. You need to obtain a CM/ECF account for each court with which you will electronically file.
2. I have an account but I forgot my password. What do I do?
Call us toll free at 1-866-784-6273 (9am - 5pm EST
) and we will email you a new password right away. We will only send passwords to the primary address on the account and we will never give out passwords over the phone.
3. How many accounts can our firm get?
CM/ECF accounts are not issued "by firm". Only one account is issued to each attorney who is a member of the bar. No additional accounts for support staff will be issued.
4. I can't login. What's wrong?
Here are some things to look out for when having trouble logging in:
- All logins and passwords are case sensitive. Make sure you do not have your caps lock on.
- Make sure you are using the correct password for your login ID.
- Make sure you are using the login ID and password for the US Court of Federal Claims' system and not another court's.
- You may be trying to log in to the wrong system. Your login ID will only work in the LIVE system. To log in to the TRAIN system you need to use one of several generic IDs that you can find here.
5. How do I change my password after my account is created?
Log in to your CM/ECF account. Go to Utilities > Maintain Your Account and click the Email information... button. You may change your Primary email and add others on this screen. Make sure you complete the process by clicking Return to Account Screen and then the Submit button. Click Submit one more time and then you should see a message indication the update was successful.
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1.What is PDF?
PDF stands for Portable Document Format. It is a universal file format that preserves the fonts, images, graphics, and layout of any source document, regardless of the application and platform used to create it.
2.Why do we have to use PDF?
We require PDF format because PDFs retain the original document format for all viewers regardless of the computer being used and are easily read with a free Adobe viewer. This is an important factor in court documents, which need to be identical and accessible for all parties. Word and WordPerfect do not satisfy this demand.
3. But Adobe Acrobat is too expensive.
You are not required to buy Adobe's Acrobat software to create PDFs for CM/ECF. There is a wide variety of much less expensive, even free, software alternatives. We have 2 links (in our Links section) that have much more information on PDF software options.
PDF for Lawyers
4. How do I get my document into PDF?
There are 2 common methods for converting a document into PDF format. The first is to electronically convert it directly by using PDF writing software. This is the fastest way to convert and gives you the smallest file size. You need to have the document in question available in an electronic format (word processed or on screen in some manner). Any PDF writing software will work.
The second method is to scan a document. This should only be done when you only have a paper document with no electronic format available as this process makes a much larger file size. You will need a scanner and PDF software to use this method. We have a few recommendations when scanning to help you keep file size as low as possible: scan using black and white (not grayscale or color), set your dpi (dots per inch) to 300 and make sure you are scanning to PDF format and not TIFF or something else.
5. I don't understand the file size limit.
Firstly, the FILE size limit has nothing to do with PAGE limit. Any PDF file that you submit to the court must be under 5 MB in size. You can attach any number of PDF files per filing (e.g. a motion for summary judgment filing can have 10 PDF files attached to it - each one under 5 MB, for a total of 50 MB for the whole filing.)
6. Oh, well my file is too big, what do I do?
If your PDF file is too big to be filed as is, then you need to "break up" the file into smaller chunks or pieces. The exact process will vary according to the software you are using. You can then attach all of these pieces when you submit your filing.
An example: I have a 7 MB Motion for Summary Judgment (including appendices.) I will use my PDF software to break that up into pieces that are each under 5 MB. Doing this I may come up with two PDF files:
one-the motion and brief and Exhibits 1-3
two-Exhibit 4, pgs 1-62
Now when I go to file I will attach the motion and brief PDF as my main file and then attach the other PDF as attachments to the motion.
7. When I look at a PDF I can only see the first page, get a blank page and/or I get an "Error reading linearized hint data" message when I try to open a PDF file.
This is a known Adobe Acrobat problem and is caused by the Adobe application, not our PDFs. You can correct this problem in Adobe Acrobat by doing the following:
If you are using Adobe 5, open the application, click Edit, click Preferences, click General (if required), click Options, uncheck "Allow Fast Web View", and click OK to save the changes.
If you are using Adobe 6 or 7, open the application, click Edit, click Preferences, select "Internet" in the table on the left, uncheck "Allow Fast Web View", and click OK to save the changes.
8. When I try to view / download multiple documents, I just see a blank page with the words "Your download will begin in a separate window."?
At the top of your webpage you should see a message "To help protect your security, Internet Explorer blocked this site from downloading files to your computer. Click here for options..." (or something similar), click on the message bar. This will allow you to view / download your files.
9. How should I redact my PDF?
The best way to ensure good redaction is to redact the original document prior to creating it as a PDF. This way the redacted text is never part of the PDF and so cannot be uncovered. This may not always be feasible though. There is software available for redacting PDFs and there is a method for redacting, saving the file as an image and then saving it back to PDF again. Here is an informative entry at the Adobe website, Acrobat for Legal Professionals.
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Rules and Procedures
1. Which rule covers electronic filing procedures?
Appendix E addresses electronic filing.
2. I realized I made a mistake in my filing. What do I do now to fix it?
Once you have hit the final Submit button in CM/ECF your document is entered on the docket and served electronically. At this point the document is part of the official record of the case and service can not be "yanked back". If you realize that you have made an error, you will need to contact the Clerk's Office at 202-357-6400 for assistance to resolve the error. The resolution will be dependant on the particular error that has been committed. Keep in mind that the Clerk's Office is open to assist with filing errors from 8:45 am to 5:15 pm Eastern Time only.
3. How do I file a joint motion?
You can file a joint motion electronically the same way that you do with a paper filing. Either one counsel may sign the document on behalf of opposing counsel pursuant to CFC Rule 83.1(c)(2) or you may send a copy of the document to opposing counsel through email for them to sign before you convert the document into PDF.
DO NOT file two identical motions, one by each counsel. This is not compliant with the rules for a joint filing and creates unnecessary clutter on the docket which may then need to be resolved through an order of the court.
4. I have a huge appendix do I HAVE to file it electronically?
In a word, YES. You may, of course, always move the court for leave to file it in paper form, but this is up to the discretion of the presiding judge.
5. I don't want to do electronic filing. How do I withdraw my case from ECF?
Once a case has been designated an electronic (ECF) case it is MANDATORY that all filings be made electronically. Withdrawal from ECF is only allowed under unusual and extreme circumstances and is solely at the discretion of the presiding judge.
6. Opposing counsel was not served electronically. How do I serve them?
You are not responsible for service unless directed by court order to do so. If the failure of service is the fault of opposing counsel it is their responsibility to obtain a copy of the document through PACER. If the fault is due to a technical problem at the court, then the court will serve an electronic and/or paper copy of the document on the appropriate counsel.
7. My computer crashed! What can I do?
If your computer has crashed or you are having technical problems that won't allow you to complete your filing then you will need to find a working computer - either within your office, at a service center like a Kinko's or, if you are local, you can come to the clerk's office at the court during business hours. Even if your filing is not accessible you can still file a motion for extension explaining the situation. You MAY NOT file a paper version of the document.
8. How do I sign for another attorney?
The same way you do in paper cases. Pursuant to Rule 83.1(c)(2) you can sign for another attorney by signing their name ("s/ Other Attorney") followed by your name ("by s/ My Name"). Here is a full example: s/ John Doe by s/ Jane Doe. Just remember to add the "s/" prior to both names.
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1. I am trying to file a document but I keep getting this error: "ERROR: Document is not a well-formed PDF document." What should I do?
This error appears when you are trying to attach a document that is not a PDF to the CM/ECF system. Only PDFs may be filed through CM/ECF. You will need to go to the source document and convert it into PDF before you can proceed with filing.
2. I am at the docket sheet but I can't view the document I want to see.
There are several reasons this may occur:
1) The case may be a paper case. If the document numbers on the docket sheet are not blue hyperlinks (like this: 3), then the document is not available electronically and you must contact the Clerk's Office at 202-357-6400 for more information about obtaining copies of paper documents.
2) You may have an older version of Acrobat Reader that cannot open the PDF document. You should have at least Reader version 5. To get the latest version of Reader see our Links page.
3) The document may be restricted due to a protective order. When this is the case you will get a message that states "You do not have permission to view this document."
4) See also PDF question 7 above.
3. I have an ECF case but I am not getting email notification of filings in the case. What is going on?
There are several reasons this may happen:
1) You have not registered for a CM/ECF account yet. You can not receive electronic notification if you do not have a CM/ECF account.
2) You have edited your notification list in your Email Information page to only notify you for certain case numbers. You need to keep this list up to date with new cases if you have chosen to change this from our default settings (all cases in which you are a participant).
4. The system keeps kicking me out when I try to file. Every time I try to log in, it says I am already logged in. When I click the button to continue it sends me back to the login screen.
This can happen if your browser cache is not updating properly.
In Internet Explorer go to Tools > Internet Options > Settings... and under "Check for newer versions of stored pages", select "Every visit to the page." Click OK twice.
In Netscape go to Edit > Preferences > Advanced > Cache and select "Every time I view the page." Click OK.
In Opera go to Tools > Preferences > History and cache and change "Check Documents, Check Images and Check Other" to Always. Click Apply.
In Firefox, do the following:
1. Open another browser window, delete the address in the URL bar and type "about:config" and hit Enter.
3. Scroll down to "browser.cache.check_doc_frequency"
4. Highlight and double click. Change the 3 to 1 in the dialogue box. Click OK.
5. Close window, exit and restart Firefox to enact the change.
5. What are the ECF Attorney rules for sealed documents?
First thing to remember is that an attorney must have an ECF account to view sealed documents and they must be the attorney of record for an active party in the case.
When an attorney opens a sealed document from their email they will be presented with a login screen. Many attys automatically enter their PACER login here. This is incorrect. They MUST enter their ECF account FIRST whenever accessing sealed documents or they will be denied access. Likewise, if they are going to the document from the docket sheet, they must first login with their ECF account before attempting to view it.
The simplest way to log in correctly is to log out and then log back in with the ECF account (of the attorney of record), then you can proceed to the docket sheet where you will be prompted again, this time for your PACER login. You should have access to all documents at this point.
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