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CM/ECF & PACER FAQ (about the electronic case files system)


Non-technical

Why should I sign up for Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER)?

All electronic case filings are accessed through PACER. In order to review a case filing, you must be registered on PACER.    Click Here For Our Pacer Page

Are there fees associated with e-filing?

There are no fees to file electronically. BUT, for viewing documents, you get one free look at documents that are filed in cases on which you are an attorney of record. After that, you will be required to log into PACER and pay a fee of $0.10 per page. (We recommend you print or save the document during the first viewing to avoid these charges.)

When I click on the document link in my e-mail, it prompts me for a login and password. When I enter my ECF login, it tells me my login failed.

You need to enter your PACER login and password.

How many times will I be able to view my case documents as an attorney of record?

If you're an attorney of record in a case, you will not be charged the first time you view a document. However, the next time you view the same document, you will be charged 10 cents per page. PACER will bill you after your account reaches $15.00 in a quarterly billing cycle.

How do I register for PACER?

Go to the PACER Service Center's website at www.pacer.psc.uscourts.gov, and complete the online form as instructed. Or call the center toll free at 1-800-676-6856 to register.

If I am from a big law firm, does each attorney need a separate password for PACER?

No, you can use your firm's login and password for PACER. However, each attorney does need a separate CM/ECF login and password.

I just received my bill from PACER and I have charges for documents that should have been free. What can I do about it?

In the event you are charged for accessing a document that should have been free, you should keep track of the occurrences. When you receive your quarterly statement, send a written request for credit by mail or e-mail. The transactions for which the problem occurred should be annotated. A credit will be applied to your PACER account.

To get detailed information for each search, you can login to "Account Information" at PACER's home web site - http://pacer.uscourts.gov, and then "Review Transaction History.' The information provided will be the date, time, case number, type of document (docket sheet, image, etc.) As a suggestion, enter "Free Look" in the client code any time you are asked to log into PACER but feel it should be your free peek. This will also show in the transaction history and may assist you in tracking the transactions.

If I am from a big law firm, does each attorney need to register for CM/ECF?

YES! Each attorney must have his/her own login and password to file documents in CM/ECF. The login and password, along with the "/s" on a document constitute the attorney's signature. (Note: All attorneys in the firm can share a PACER login and password.)

Why is it that only attorneys may register for ECF?

The CM/ECF login and password, together with an "/s" signature, constitute a valid signature for the purposes of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Just as counsel was required to sign and file a paper pleading, documents filed electronically must bear counsel's "e-filing signature." Please note that you do not need to register more than once. If you change firms, your electronic signature remains valid. HOWEVER, you must update your address and e-mail information.

Who is the sender of Notices of Electronic Filing?

Many firms have expressed an interest in making rules on their mail servers so that they can direct incoming notices of electronic filing to specific mailboxes OR they may need to add the Court's address as an "allowed" address on their spam blocker. The sender of Notices of Electronic Filing is "efile_notice@almd.uscourts.gov."

How do I add additional e-mail addresses so someone else in my office can receive Notices of Electronic Filing?

Log into CM/ECF (make sure you use the Court-issued login and password). Click on "Utilities” in the blue bar. Click on “Maintain Your E-Mail”. All of your e-mail information will be listed, including your primary e-mail address and whatever secondary e-mail addresses are currently in effect for you.

To change an address, simply type the correct information over it. To add an address, click on the “Add Additional E-mail Address” button. Fill in the e-mail address. Make sure the “Active” box is checked. Also, make sure the “In All My Cases” box is checked. Do this for each address you wish to add. Then click on the “Submit” button. Your e-mail changes will be saved and the addresses listed will receive Notices of Electronic Filing in your cases.

Alternately, you may use the drop down menu – roll your mouse over “Utilities” in the blue bar, followed by “Your Account” and click on “Maintain Your E-mail.” Then follow the directions above.

How do I change my CM/ECF password?

Log into CM/ECF. Click on "Utilities" in the blue bar. Click on "Maintain Your Account," then on the "More User Information" button. Delete the row of asterisks and type in your new password. Click on the "Return to Account Screen" button. Then click on "Submit." Use your new password next time you log in. NOTE: passwords are case sensitive.

Is there privacy in CM/ECF since it's over the Internet?

To address privacy concerns created by Internet access to court documents, litigants may modify or partially redact certain personal data identifiers appearing in pleadings or other papers. These identifiers and suggested modifications are as follows:
  1. Social Security numbers to the last four digits;
  2. financial account numbers to the last four digits;
  3. names of minor children to the initials;
  4. dates of birth to the year; and
  5. home addresses to the city and state.

Why do I continue to receive electronic notices of documents filed in cases where my obligation to represent the defendant has expired?

In this district, an attorney who represents a defendant in a criminal case is obligated to represent the defendant through the appeal stage of the case, if an appeal is filed. Upon disposition of the appeal, or expiration of the time for filing an appeal, any attorney who does not wish to receive future e-notices in a case, must file a motion to withdraw as counsel. Notices will be electronically transmitted until there is a court order allowing you to withdraw from the case.


Technical

Why does my session freeze?

If you find your session is freezing after you have hit "Submit," try using the back button to return to the previous screen and click on "Submit" again.

My session still freezes. No amount of "backing" seems to help. Now what?

Sometimes you need to give your browser a fresh start. Clear the cache and start a new session. To clear your cache, first know what browser you're using. Then try this:

  In Netscape:
	Go to Edit ... Preferences.
	Double-click on "Advanced" then click on "Cache" (yes, you can do that here)
	Click on the "Clear Cache" button then click on "OK"
		   
  In Internet Explorer:
	Go to Tools ... Internet Options
	Click on the "Delete Files" button then click on "OK" and "OK' again.
			
  In Firefox:
	Go to Tools ... Options
	Click on "Privacy" on the left side. 
	Click on the "Clear" button next to "Cache"
	Click on "OK"

Sometimes CM/ECF doesn't show my menu options, or it will begin acting strangely after it's been working just fine for some time.

Right click in the window and select "Reload Frame" for Netscape users or "Refresh" for Internet Explorer users. If that doesn't work, clear your cache (see above).

I tried to access a document in CM/ECF and I got an error message: "Error reading linearized hint data." What does that mean?

You need to adjust some of your preferences in Acrobat Reader. Open Acrobat Reader and go to "Edit" "Preferences." Click on "Internet" and uncheck "Allow Fast Webview." NOTE: This varies depending on what version of Acrobat Reader you're using.

I'm not getting my Notices of Electronic Filing and the Court is not getting a returned e-mail. We've verified that the address is correct. What is the problem?

Do you have a spam or junk mail filter? When Notices of Electronic Filing are sent out, the attorney's e-mail address is in the bcc (blind carbon copy) field and may sometimes be mistaken for spam or junk mail by some filters. This can be changed in most e-mail programs.

I want to copy and paste from a PDF document, but I can't seem to select any text. How do I do this?

You can select, copy and paste text in Acrobat by first selecting the text tool (look for the "T" on the toolbar) instead of the hand. Next, select the text and either right-click and choose copy or use the Acrobat copy icon to copy the text. Please note, electronic documents created by scanning a document into PDF will not allow you to copy and paste text.

I tried to scan my document into PDF but I got a lot of errors. What did I do wrong?

You probably tried to scan the document using optical character recognition (OCR).

I tried to file a document but it says "Document is not a well-formed PDF file." What am I doing wrong?

All documents must be submitted as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. What likely happened is: (1) You saved the document as a PDF, but tried to file the wordprocessing version of the document OR (2) you didn't give the full path name for the PDF file. If the system can't find the file, it will respond with that message. If you're not sure what the full path is, click on "Browse" and find it.

I am trying to file electronically. It is a PDF document, but the system won't take it. I get an error message that says "ERROR: This document has security measures in effect." What's wrong?

The system will not accept documents which have any of Adobe's own document security measures on. This includes password protection. Remove the security features from the document and try again.

The CM/ECF system rejected my file because it was too big. How big is "too big?"

The Court's CM/ECF system will accept documents up to 10mb in size. A 10mb file that has been converted from a wordprocessing document is about 3000 pages. A 10mb file that was created by scanning a document is less than 300 pages (sometimes no more than 15 pages). To check the size of the file, right click on the file and select "Properties." (1MB = 1000KB).

How do I convert a document to Portable Document Format?

All your documents must be converted to PDF before submitting them to the Court's Electronic Case Files (ECF) system. You'll need Acrobat Writer or pdfFactory (or another PDF converter on your computer. To start:

  Open the document to be converted.
		
  Select the print option and, in the dialog box, select the option to change 
	the current printer.  A drop down menu with a list of printer choices 
	is displayed.
			
  Select Adobe PDFWriter or pdfFactory as your printer.
		
  Print the file.  The file will not actually print.  Instead, an option to save the 
	file as a PDF file appears.  Make a note of the file location so you 
	can find the document when you're ready to upload it to the 
	system.  You can change the location of the file by clicking in the 
	"Save As" area of the window.
		
	

My document seems to change when I save it to PDF. What's happening?

Depending on the font, the printer selected, and other characteristics of the text, a document may undergo some changes when it's converted to PDF. To keep this from happening, you can use Type 1 fonts, or make Adobe PDFWriter your default printer. OR you can use Acrobat Distiller instead. Distiller is said to better preserve the document's original appearance.

The PDF documents I access in CM/ECF look normal on the screen, but when I try to print them, they're small. If I look at the page size in Acrobat, it says it's 8 ˝ x 14, rather than 8 ˝ by 11.

This is caused by a recent addition to the CM/ECF program - the header feature (that includes case information and document number) - and the way it interacts with certain types of PDF documents. You can turn the headers off. To do this:

  Click on "Utilities" in the blue bar.  Then click on "Maintain Your Account."
  Uncheck the box that says "Add Headers to PDF Documents"
  Click the "Submit" button.  And click it again.
	
When you re-open the document, there should no longer be a header with case, document and page number. And the document should print correctly.

Is there a help desk number?

Yes, it's 334.954.3935 and is usually staffed from 8:00 to 5:00 Central Standard Time, Monday through Friday, whenever the court is open.