- What is CM/ECF?
- What does CM/ECF provide for attorneys and the public?
- Is CM/ECF currently available?
- What hardware and software are needed to file documents in CM/ECF systems?
- Who may file documents on CM/ECF systems?
- Who may view documents on CM/ECF systems?
- Do documents that will be filed on CM/ECF systems need to be in a particular format?
- Are there fees associated with CM/ECF?
- How will users learn how to file documents in CM/ECF systems?
- Are there procedural rules relating to electronic filing?
- Are there rules that require redaction of personal information?
- Is it the filer’s responsibility to redact personal information?
- Are documents filed in CM/ECF secure?
CM/ECF -- the Case Management/Electronic Case Files program -- is a joint program of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the federal courts to replace old case management systems with a system based on current technology, new software, and increased functionality. This system gives federal courts the ability to maintain electronic case files and to offer electronic filing of court documents over the Internet.
CM/ECF offers a number of benefits for attorneys and the public:
- Case information, including the docket sheet and the filed documents, is available for viewing and downloading to attorneys and the public at any time from locations other than the courthouse, via the Internet through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system at a cost of ten cents per page. Attorneys and/or parties are provided with a copy of each document filed electronically in their cases via a link in the Notice of Electronic Filing that is e-mailed to each registered attorney upon the filing of each electronic document. This document may be printed or saved for future use.
- Parties, the judge, court staff, and the public can review the case file simultaneously.
- At the court's option, registered attorneys can file case documents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, over the Internet, with no additional filing fees. Attorneys can file case documents from their offices or homes right up to the filing deadline, without worrying about postage, messenger services, or traffic congestion.
- Attorneys filing over the Internet automatically create docket entries, and docket sheets are updated immediately when documents are filed.
- A notification of activity in a case, in the form of a Notice of Electronic Filing, is sent by e-mail to the filer and all registered participants in the case immediately after each electronic filing. The Notice of Electronic Filing contains a hyperlink to the filed document and the docket sheet.
- Since CM/ECF can be accessed using standard office PC equipment, the cost to be CM/ECF ready is very low for the typical attorney.
Yes. The CM/ECF system for bankruptcy courts began implementation nationally in early 2001. The district court CM/ECF system began to roll out nationally in May 2002. Implementation of the CM/ECF system for appellate courts began in 2005. Over 41 million cases and 500 million documents are on CM/ECF systems and more than 700,000 attorneys across the country are filing documents electronically.
Filing documents into CM/ECF electronic filing systems requires the following hardware and software:
- A personal computer running a standard platform such as Windows or Mac OS X.
- A PDF-compatible word processor like Corel WordPerfect or Microsoft Word.
- Internet service.
- A web browser. For CM/ECF, the latest versions of Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Internet Explorer are recommended. Some users have had positive experiences with other web browsers, but those listed here have been tested and certified for compatibility with CM/ECF.
- For appellate CM/ECF, users will need the Java 1.6 plug-in. The plug-in is available as a free download.
- Software to convert documents from word processor format to portable document format (PDF). Corel WordPerfect and Microsoft Word can convert documents to PDF, or an additional product such as Adobe Acrobat can be used.
- Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available for free, is needed for viewing PDF documents.
- A document scanner, if litigants need to create PDF images of documents they wish to file using CM/ECF.
Filing a document into CM/ECF requires a login and password. Each court determines for itself to whom it will issue filing logins and passwords. Courts offering electronic filing provide document filing access principally to attorneys, U.S. Trustees, and bankruptcy case trustees. Some courts permit bankruptcy claimants and other pro se litigants to file electronically.
Subject to court orders in individual cases, policy, or other individual court limitations, the public may view dockets and documents in CM/ECF systems through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) program. Logins are available to the public at the PACER registration page. As directed by Congress, the judiciary's electronic public access program is funded entirely through user fees set by the Judicial Conference of the United States. Information is currently available at a rate of ten cents per page, with a maximum cost per document calculated to be the equivalent of a 30-page document ($3.00). Transcripts of court proceedings and docket sheets are not subject to the fee limit. Copies of court opinions are available for free.
CM/ECF systems are designed to accept only documents in PDF format. This format was chosen because it allows a document to retain its pagination, formatting, and fonts no matter what type of computer is used to view or print the document. It is also an open standard format. Adobe developed the format, and offers software that allows conversion of documents created in most word processing systems into PDF. Several word processing and other programs contain features that convert documents created in those programs into PDF.
There are no added fees for filing documents over the Internet using CM/ECF, although existing court document filing fees do apply. Electronic access to individual case docket sheets and filed documents is available through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) program. Litigants receive one free copy of documents filed electronically in their cases through a link in the e-mailed Notice of Electronic Filing; additional copies are available to attorneys and to the general public for viewing or downloading at the current PACER cost of ten cents per page with a maximum cost per document calculated to be the equivalent of a 30-page document ($3.00). Transcripts of court proceedings and docket sheets are not subject to the fee limit. There is no charge to view court opinions and court calendars. As directed by Congress, the judiciary's electronic public access program is funded entirely through user fees set by the Judicial Conference of the United States. Learn how PACER fees work.
Training is available from each court. If an attorney is trained and registered in one court, that attorney may be authorized to register and file in another court without further training at that court's discretion. Filing documents in CM/ECF is easy; a minimal amount of training generally is needed. Many courts also have developed user manuals for attorneys and other users, which are available on their web sites. Attorneys should contact each court in which they wish to register and file for information about training requirements. Learning aids and frequently asked questions are available on the PACER informational website.
Rule 5(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 5005(a) of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, Rule 25(a) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, and Rule 49(d) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure authorize individual courts by local rule to permit or require papers to be filed by electronic means. Most courts that offer electronic filing have issued an authorizing local rule; most have supplemented the local rule with a general order and/or procedures that set forth the relevant procedures governing electronic filing in that court. Individual court rules and procedures are generally available on their Web sites. Rules 5(b) and 77 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules 25 and 26 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rules 45 and 49 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and Rules 7005, 9014 and 9022 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure also authorize service of documents by electronic means if parties consent. The amendments do not apply to service of process. Individual court rules and procedures are generally available on their websites.
Amendments to the Federal Appellate, Bankruptcy, Civil, and Criminal Rules of Procedure address issues relating to privacy and public access to electronic case files. The Rules require that filers redact certain "personal identifier" information, such as Social Security or taxpayer-identification numbers, dates of birth, names of minor children, financial account numbers, and in criminal cases, home addresses, from their filings. At login to CM/ECF, a message reminds attorneys of their responsibility to redact this private information from the documents they file. The most recent version of this reminder also requires attorneys to acknowledge that they have read the notice and complied with the redaction rules. Filers cannot complete the login process without checking the acknowledgement in this recent version.
Yes. Appellate Rule 25(a)(5), Bankruptcy Rule 9037, Civil Rule 5.2, and Criminal Rule 49.1 require that certain "personal identifier" information be redacted from court filings. Subject to specified exemptions, the privacy rules requires that the following information be redacted from documents filed with the court:
- all but the last four digits of an individual’s social security number or taxpayer-identification number;
- the month and day of an individual’s birth;
- all but the initial letters of a known minor’s name;
- all but the last four digits of a financial-account number; and
- in criminal cases, all but the city and state of an individual’s home address.
Yes. At login to CM/ECF, a message reminds attorneys of their responsibility to redact this private information from the documents they file. The most recent version of this reminder also requires attorneys to acknowledge that they have read the notice and complied with the redaction rules. Filers cannot complete the login process without checking the acknowledgement in this recent version.
Yes. There are two utility programs that verify documents. One program is used to verify the integrity of a PDF document as it is filed in CM/ECF. A second, separate program runs automatically at preset times to verify that the documents have not changed since they were filed.