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CM/ECF Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Access Questions

Technical Questions

What is CM/ECF?
In January 1996, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts began development of the Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) system. CM/ECF is a comprehensive case management system that will allow courts to maintain electronic case files and offer electronic filing over the Internet. Courts can make all case information immediately available electronically through the Internet. Eventually, CM/ECF will replace the current case management systems used by the federal courts across the country.
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Why Electronic Case Files?
Judges, court staff, and the public now have the capability to access electronic docket information, case management data and legal research materials. As most documents are now initially created first in electronic form, the federal courts can further reduce the reliance on paper records by establishing electronic case file systems. These systems should enhance the accuracy, management and security of records, reduce delays in the flow of information and achieve cost savings for the judiciary, the bar and litigants.
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What are the benefits and features of using CM/ECF?
There are a number of significant benefits and features:
Courts can allow registered attorneys to file documents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Reduction of paper, photocopy, postage and courier costs. Full case information is available immediately to attorneys, parties, and the general public through the Internet. This includes the ability to view the full text of all filed documents. Attorneys on the system will receive email notices electronically in CM/ECF cases. This greatly speeds delivery and eliminates the costs to both the court and attorneys of handling and mailing paper notices. Multiple parties can view the same case files simultaneously. Since CM/ECF uses Internet standard software, the out-of-pocket cost of participation for attorneys is typically very low.
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Which courts provide a CM/ECF system?
CM/ECF is available in most district and bankruptcy courts, although some of the district courts provide only civil case information at this time. For a complete list of the CM/ECF courts click here.
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What is the cost for using CM/ECF?
There is no additional fee associated with the filing aspect of the CM/ECF system.
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Who developed CM/ECF?
All software for the project has been developed by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.
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How do I get Help?
For help using CM/ECF, you can visit the PACER Service Center website, send an email to the PACER Service Center at or call (800) 676-6856 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Central Time.
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How are electronic documents served?
The CM/ECF system generates a Notice of Electronic Filing -- an email message containing a hyperlink to the document filed -- whenever a document is filed with the court.
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What constitutes a page in CM/ECF for billing purposes?
Billable pages are calculated in two ways in CM/ECF. A formula is used to determine the number of pages for an HTML formatted report. Any information extracted from the CM/ECF database, such as the data used to create a docket sheet, is billed using a formula based on the number of bytes extracted. For a PDF document, the actual number of pages are counted to determine the number of billable pages.
For printed report data retrieved from the CM/ECF system that is printed, the print job will not always match the number of pages billed. The number of pages printed is dependent on individual printer and browser settings. All users are charged equally for the same information regardless of the browser settings or printer configurations. A transaction receipt and the Review Billing History option are provided in each court site for reviewing charges. Also, Review Transaction History is available on this site in Account Information for reviewing transactions from all courts. The transactions are updated on the PACER Web Site by the middle of each month.
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How do I get my free copy of newly filed documents?
Attorneys of record receive one free electronic copy of all documents filed electronically. Registered attorneys will receive an email message containing a hyperlink to the document filed. Use the hyperlink to view the document. The hyperlink will expire after the earlier of these two events: the first use or 30 days. Any time that same hyperlink is accessed after it has expired, the user will be asked for a PACER login and will be charged to view the document. All users are advised to print or save the document during the initial viewing period in order to avoid future charges.
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How do I start receiving email notices from CM/ECF?
Log into the CM/ECF system with your court-issued filing login. Your PACER login will not have sufficient privileges to access this information. Click on 'Utilities.' Click on 'Maintain Your Email Information'. Enter your email address in the box for 'Primary e-mail address'. You can send additional notices to other email addresses by checking the box 'Add Additional Email Address' and listing secondary email addresses. You may receive notices in other cases by selecting 'Additional Cases' under the 'Additional Options' box and listing the case numbers. You may choose to receive an individual notice for each filing, or a summary notice with all the filings each day. Either the individual or the summary notice will contain hyperlinks to the documents. You may choose to receive the email notices in HTML or text format. You should choose the format based on the type of email program you use. After completing the information requested on the screen, click on "Return to Personal Information Screen". At the bottom of that screen, click on 'Submit', and then click on 'Submit' again. You should receive a confirmation message on the screen that your email preferences were successfully updated. Make sure you keep your email address current, to avoid missing any notices.
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The electronic notice I received has a link to the docket sheet. Am I charged to view the docket sheet?
The fee is applied for accessing a docket sheet and any documents accessed from the link on the docket sheet.
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Can the general public view CM/ECF cases and the documents in those cases?
Yes, the public may access case data in CM/ECF, unless it has been sealed, or otherwise restricted by the Court. The public access component of CM/ECF will require a user to enter a PACER login and password. Because the PACER login and CM/ECF filing login are different, a filing attorney will need both. Established PACER users will automatically have access to these sites - a new account does not need to be created. For those currently not registered with PACER, a PACER account may be obtained here.
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Can any member of the public use CM/ECF to file documents with the court?
No. Access to the filing portion of CM/ECF is available to authorized attorneys only. Authorization is provided by each individual court.
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How does an attorney become an authorized CM/ECF user?
In order for an attorney to be authorized to file documents electronically and to receive e-mail notices of documents that are filed, he/she must be admitted to practice and be registered to file electronically within the specific court providing the CM/ECF system. Each court will have its own requirements and procedures for registering. Upon registration with the court, attorneys will be provided with an identification name and password that will allow access for the filing aspect of the system. Attorneys will also need to register with the PACER Service Center to obtain a login and password for the querying component of the system.
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My firm already has a PACER login and password. Do I need to establish a separate PACER account, or can I use the firm account?
The firm PACER account may be used for the query component of CM/ECF. However, if you would like to keep the billing separate from the firm's, you will need to establish a new PACER account. A PACER account may be obtained here.
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I am changing firms. Do I need to establish a new e-filing login and password?
You do not need to register for CM/ECF more than once. Even if you change firms, your login remains valid. However, you must update your e-mail information using the "Utilities" option of CM/ECF, and notify the court, in writing, of your address and firm change. It will also be necessary to establish a new PACER login and password. A PACER account may be obtained here.
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How do I change my CM/ECF password?

  • Once logged in, go to "Utilities" on the dark blue tool bar.
  • Click on "Maintain Your Account" in the "Your Account" section.
  • Click on the "More User Information" button at the bottom of the screen.
  • Highlight the row of asterisks in the password box and type your new password in their place. Please select a password of at least eight characters, both alpha and numeric, for optimum security.
  • Click on "Return to Account screen" at the bottom of the page.
  • Click on "Submit" at the bottom of the page

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Why do I get a second login screen after I've already logged into ECF?
This login prompt is requesting your PACER login and password, which is required whenever you request a report or document from a case. In order to bypass this login prompt in the future, click the box that says 'make this my default login' after entering the PACER login and password. Your CM/ECF login and password will still need to be entered each time the ECF site is visited.
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Why am I getting an invalid login message?
Look for a few of these common problems:

  • Both the login and password should be entered in lower case letters.
  • Make sure the proper login and password are being used for the proper database. (PACER login for querying; CM/ECF login for filing)
  • Verify that the recommended browser is being used - Mozilla Firefox 2.0, IE 6.0 or higher, or any other compatible browser.

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Why do I get an invalid login message once I have already logged into the court and I am retrieving a docket or document?
Verify that the recommended browser is being used. Make sure to set your PC to accept all cookies. If the problem persists, delete your existing cookie files. Cookies are stored within the Program Files of your computer. Once in Program Files, go into the browser folder. Within one of the folders will be a cookie file. To delete the cookie file, right click on the icon and select delete.
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Why can I get a docket sheet, but not any of the documents provided?
This may occur if you are using an incompatible browser. Check your browser setting. Another problem may be that you do not need Acrobat software (ie Adobe Reader) to view a docket sheet, but you do need it to view documents. You might have Adobe Acrobat on your machine, but have not connected it to browser. The solution for Netscape--open Netscape: Options, General Preferences, and in the dialog box add application/pdf; extension pdf and indicate the path to the Acrobat.exe file.
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What should we do when an attorney leaves the firm?
When an attorney leaves a firm, both the attorney and the firm need to consider the implications to the CM/ECF noticing system. If cases will move with the attorney, all the attorney needs to do is to change his/her e-mail notification set up and submit a change of address to the Clerk's Office. If cases will remain with the firm, the firm will need to ensure that the Court docket accurately reflects the proper attorney of record and that the new attorney of record is properly set up to receive e-mail notification. Law firms may also wish to consider the best method of handling e-mail addressed to the firm for the departed attorney. Summarily removing the attorney from the firm's e-mail system with no further action, may result in notifications being missed. Firms may wish to consider whether their own e-mail systems should forward such e-mails to the attorney at his/her new address, or to another attorney within the firm.
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Can I have the same filing login for all courts I practice in?
Since each court assigns the filing login for filing privileges in the CM/ECF system, it is not possible to obtain a universal filing login.
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How do I change my default PACER login?
Once you are logged in as a CM/ECF filer, click on 'Utilities.' In Utilities, click on 'Change Your PACER Login.' Enter a new PACER login and password. You can change the default PACER login by checking the box 'Make this my default PACER login.' Once you associate a PACER login and a filer login, there is no way to un-associate the two without making another PACER login the default.
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What is a PDF document?
Documents in Portable Document File (PDF) format do not require a copy of the word processing program used to create them in order to be viewed. They can be viewed by anyone with a free Acrobat Reader, a product of Adobe Systems, Inc. In addition to its cross platform advantage, a PDF document matches very closely the format of the original document in which the PDF document was created. All of the pleadings in the CM/ECF system are stored in PDF format. To view PDF files, you must have a copy of Acrobat Reader software, which you may download free from the Adobe website. You will view PDF documents the way they were created, and you may save and print them in that format.
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What is Adobe Acrobat?
Adobe Acrobat is a commercial software product from Adobe that allows you to save documents in PDF (portable document format). All documents filed in CM/ECF must be in PDF format. The most recent version, 9.0, is available in three versions: Standard, Pro, and Pro Extended. These products range in price from $99-699. There may be volume discounts for multiple orders.
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How do I make a PDF document with Adobe Acrobat?

  • In order for CM/ECF to work properly, documents must be scanned to be a text searchable document.
  • When creating a new document to be filed, before writing the document, first change the print driver from the default printer (e.g., HP5Si) to "Acrobat PDFWriter" by selecting "File"/"Print" and then selecting "Acrobat PDFWriter" as the current printer.
  • Write your document and when finished, select "File"/"Print". Ensure that "Acrobat PDFWriter" is selected as the printer and then name your file (and place it in the proper directory) and click OK. The file will be created with a .pdf extension. In doing this, you are not actually printing your document to a printer, but instead saving it to a file. To print a physical copy of the document, open the newly-created .pdf file and print to your local printer. Always print from this PDF file, rather than the word-processed file that you created it to ensure that the paper and electronic versions are consistent. Alternatively, you can set the printer to "Acrobat PDFWriter" after the document has been created to save it to a PDF file, but there is a possibility of introducing a formatting discrepancy. For instance, a page break may not be the same in the PDF file as it was in the word-processed file.

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I created a PDF in Microsoft Word, but when I try to upload it to CM/ECF, I am told that I can't file a document with embedded links.
In Microsoft Word, click on "Tools", then click on "Auto Correct Options". Then click on the "AutoFormat" tab and uncheck "Internet and network paths with hyperlinks". If Adobe Writer is installed, within Microsoft Word there will be an Adobe PDF menu. From that menu choose "Change Conversion Settings". Make sure the conversion setting is set to "Standard" (not "High Quality Print") and make sure that "Attach source file to PDF" is turned off.
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Why do I have missing pages when I convert my documents to PDF?
If WordPerfect 5.1 or 7.0 is used to write the document, and the document is more than three pages, Adobe Acrobat will not convert all pages to the PDF format. As a result, the converted document will have missing pages. Use Adobe Exchange to ensure the integrity of the converted PDF document.
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I tried to scan my document into PDF but a lot of errors appeared.
You are probably trying to scan the document using optical character recognition (OCR)--don't do this. PDF can handle both text and scanned documents. It can also take scanned documents and perform OCR on them, turning the image back into editable text. However, this process has many problems and should not be done before e-filing them. It is permissible to perform OCR on PDF documents after they are in the e-filing system, since any OCR errors will not be placed in the official documents at the court.
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How do you start the Adobe Acrobat Reader program in order to view a PDF document on a website?
Adobe Acrobat Reader is a plugin that Netscape will automatically launch when you try to access a document stored in PDF format. If you do not have the Adobe Reader, your computer will show you a set of applications from which to choose a program that will read the file. None of them will work, which is why you must download the Adobe Reader from Adobe Systems' website. To download a free copy of Acrobat Reader, click here.
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When I print an image from CM/ECF, the right edge gets cut off.
After you click the print icon, click the 'shrink to fit' box on the printer setup screen. Once the setting has been changed, it should remain this way for all PDF documents.
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How do I copy a PDF text file to my word processor?
If a PDF document contains text, as opposed to an image, you can select text and do a normal copy and paste. Using the Acrobat Reader, one can select no more than a page at a time. To copy a large text file in PDF format, it may be easier to use Adobe Acrobat to save the PDF document to a file. (If the Adobe Reader is embedded in Netscape so that it opens up within Netscape instead of a separate window, use the Save Frame option under File. You may also save a PDF document by right-clicking on the link to that document and then clicking on "Save Link As."). After noting or choosing the directory in which you save the PDF file, open the document in Acrobat. Under "Edit", there is a menu pick called "Copy To Clipboard". Once the document is copied to the Windows Clipboard, open your word processing program and paste the document in a new document. You can select, copy and paste text in Acrobat, but you must first select the text tool (look for the T on the toolbar) instead of the hand. Then select the text, and either right-click and choose copy, or use the Acrobat copy icon (to the left of the Text tool on the Acrobat toolbar.
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Can I use Adobe Acrobat 5.0?
Adobe Corporation recently released a new version (Version 5) of its Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF) conversion software. The Administrative Office(AO) of the United States Courts' CM/ECF Development Team extensively tested and evaluated the capabilities and compatibility of the newest version with the CM/ECF service. These test results indicate that court personnel and lawyers can use Version 5 PDF documents without any adverse effects to CM/ECF. For those attempting to review and store PDF documents, Versions 3.x, 4.x and 5 are both downward and upward compatible – i.e., a PDF document created with Version 5 can be reviewed with a Version 4.x reader and a Version 4.x document can be reviewed with a Version 5 reader. There are a few precautions that should be taken when installing and using Version 5 with CM/ECF. Adobe Acrobat Version 5 offers two packages ("drivers"), Acrobat 5 Distiller and Acrobat 5 Writer, for converting documents into PDF. While Adobe's standard installation procedures automatically install the Distiller package, the AO strongly recommends that all CM/ECF users "Custom" install and normally use the Adobe Writer 5 driver software. The PDF Writer version converts files into PDF significantly faster and produces significantly smaller PDF files than the Adobe Distiller version.
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If using Adobe 5
There needs to be a change in his Adobe Setup.If the user is using Adobe Acrobat 5, have them go to Edit > Preferences > General > Options . On the right will be several check boxes. Insure that the first box, Display PDF in browser, is UNchecked. Also, the third box, Allow FastWeb view, should be UNchecked.
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If using Adobe 6
If the user is using Adobe Acrobat 6, have them go to Edit - Preferences - Internet. On the right will be several check boxes. Insure that the first box, Display PDF in browser, is UNchecked. Also, the third box, Allow FastWeb view, should be UNchecked.
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If using Adobe version 4
You will be unable to view the document properly using version 4, please upgrade to the most current version of Adobe by clicking here.
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