1. What is CM/ECF?
The Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) project 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 will give federal courts the ability to
maintain electronic case files and offer electronic filing of court
documents over the Internet.
2. What are the benefits and features of using ECF?
There are a number of significant benefits and features:
- 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
- Parties, the judge, court staff and the public can review the case
- Reduced paper, photocopy, postage and courier costs.
- Full case information is available immediately to attorneys,
parties, and the general public through the Internet through the
PACER system at a cost of seven cents per page. This includes the
ability to view the full text of all filed documents. Trained,
authorized, attorney and trustee users are provided free access
one time to documents filed electronically in their
- Attorneys on the system will receive notices electronically in ECF
cases; this eliminates the costs to both the court and attorneys
of handling and mailing paper notices, and greatly speeds
- Attorneys filing over the Internet automatically create docket
entries, and docket sheets are updated immediately when documents
- An automatic verification, in the form of a "Notice of Electronic
Filing", is sent by e-mail to the filer when documents are filed.
- Parties to litigation can receive immediate notice by e-mail of
activity in their cases.
- Since ECF uses Internet standard software, the out-of-pocket cost
of participation for attorneys is typically very low.
3. Is CM/ECF currently available in other courts?
The CM/ECF system for bankruptcy courts is being implemented nationally
over a two-to-three year period starting March 2001. The district court
CM/ECF system is shceduled to roll out nationally starting mid-2002.
The CM/ECF system for appellate courts is expected to be ready for use
during the first half of 2003. CM/ECF is currently in use in more than
20 courts. Hundreds of thousands of cases and millions of documents are
on CM/ECF systems, and thousands of attorneys across the country are
filing documents electronically.
4. Will all federal courts offer electronic filing?
The use of CM/ECF's electronic filing capabilities is at each
individual court's option. Many of the courts that have implemented or
are in the process of implementing CM/ECF have chosen to offer
electronic filing. For information about whether another court will be
offering electronic filing, contact that court.
5. Who developed ECF?
CM/ECF is the key automation project in the federal judiciary. The
prototype ("pilot") courts were consulted for recommendations. All
software development for the project was done centrally, by employees of
the Administrative Office of the United States Courts in Washington, DC.
6. Who may view CM/ECF cases and the documents in those cases?
Public users will be charged to view CM/ECF reports and queries through
the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) program. PACER
logins are required and may be obtained by either contacting the Pacer
Service Center by telephone between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm Monday-Friday
CST at (800) 676-6856, or via it's website at:
7. Who may file documents on CM/ECF systems?
Filing a document into CM/ECF requires a login and password. The
Western District of North Carolina presently provides access to CM/ECF
only to trained, authorized attorneys, trustees and the bankruptcy
administrator. More information on training is available on this
court's web page.
8. How does an attorney become an authorized CM/ECF user?
- Obtain recommended hardware and software
- Complete a Credit Card Authorization Form (all ECF filing fees
must be paid via credit card)
- Require staff who will be using ECF to take the
"PC Skills Survey" located on the Court's
website prior to signing up for CM/ECF training with the court.
- Complete CM/ECF training conducted by the court. Contact the court
to register for training.
9. What hardware/software is needed on the attorney's
end to use ECF?
- A personal computer with at least a Pentium processor, or a
Macintosh, running a standard operating system such as Windows, or
- A scanner for attachment of documents not in your word processor
or bankruptcy software
- A connection to the Internet with unrestricted browsing
- Netscape Navigator version 4.6 or 4.7 (Netscape 6 is not
recommended for use with CM/ECF). CM/ECF technical staff is
currently testing Internet Explorer version 5.5 to certify its
compatibility with the CM/ECF system. However, some users have
accessed the system through Internet Explorer with positive
- Adobe Acrobat software (Reader and Writer) which is used to convert
documents from a word processing software format to a Portable
Document Format (PDF) or to save scanned documents to PDF. Adobe
Acrobat "Reader" is free and may be downloaded via the Internet at
www.adobe.com. Adobe Acrobat
"Writer" must be purchased. Special Law Office Pricing from Adobe
may be obtained by calling 888-502-5275. Attorneys will need to
give their bar number and mention that they will be participating
in ECF with the U.S. Courts.
10. What is Adobe Acrobat?
Adobe Acrobat Exchange is commercial software from Adobe that allows
you to save your documents in PDF (portable document format). All
documents filed in ECF must be in PDF format. Acrobat Exchange is
available from commercial software retailers for approximately $200 -
$300. Adobe also distributes a program called Acrobat Reader that
allows you to view and print (but not create) PDF documents. The reader
is available for free download from
NOTE: Attorneys can purchase Adobe Acrobat Exchange 4.0 by
11. How is payment of filing fees handled for ECF cases?
Payment by credit card (currently accepting Mastercard, Visa, Discover,
American Express, Diners Club)
12. How do I set up a credit card account to be used
for ECF cases?
An attorney must complete and deliver to the Office of the Clerk,
United States Bankruptcy Court, Western District of North Carolina,
Charlotte Division, an application for authorization of credit card
payment. The original application will be kept in the Charlotte office
and a copy provided to other applicable divisional offices. The
application may be found on the court's
13. How is the requirement of an original signature
(attorney and/or debtor) handled for ECF cases?
An attorney's unique system login is considered the attorney's
Petitions, lists, schedules, statements, amendments, pleadings,
affidavits, and other documents which must contain original signatures,
or which require verification under FRBP 1008, or an unsworn
declaration as provided in U.S.C. § 1746, shall be filed
electronically or in accordance with the Notice of Electronic Filing
Procedure. Originally executed copies must be maintained by the filer
until four (4) years after the closing of the case, and upon request of
the court, the filer must provide original documents for review. The
pleadings or other documents electronically filed shall indicate a
signature with the party's name typed in full, e.g. "/s/ Jane Doe".
14. Can an attorney authorize someone in their
office (such as a paralegal) to use their login name and password to
file documents in ECF?
Yes, but the court recommends that such access be very limited and
controlled since whatever is filed under that name and password is
deemed to have the attorney's signature on it.
15. What ECF training and support will be available
for attorneys and others in their offices?
Attorneys must complete training conducted by a court trainer. Small
groups are trained in the court's training room. Passwords are
assigned to access the court's training database. Once familiar with
the training database, and training exercises are complete, live
passwords are issued authorizing attorneys to file documents in ECF
cases through the ECF system. For application support, call the court's
ECF Trainers at 704-350-7500.