CM/ECF Frequently Asked Questions

Last Updated: April 2, 2013

General 
Access Related
 
Procedural
 
Adobe Acrobat Related 

Technical
 


General

1.  What is CM/ECF?

ANSWER: Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) is the Federal Judiciary's new electronic case filing system that allows trained and certified users to file new bankruptcy cases, adversary proceedings or documents right from their computer. The system uses standard computer hardware, an Internet connection and browser, plus software to format a document for electronic filing. 

2.  What are the benefits of CM/ECF for attorneys, trustees, and the general public?

ANSWER:  Benefits include: 24-hour availability for filing bankruptcy cases, adversary proceedings, and documents; immediate confirmation to filers of documents; automatic e-mail notice of case activity; 24-hour access to electronic files to view and print docket sheets, claims registers, and other reports; reduced paper and copying costs; and reduced courier and mailing costs.

3.  How does electronic filing work?

ANSWER: To file electronically, attorneys create their documents on their computers just as they normally do. Instead of printing the document on paper, however, attorneys save it in a portable document format that can be read by others with all formatting intact regardless of the type of computer or word processor they use. Attorneys then access the electronic filing system through their Internet provider over the World Wide Web. After establishing their identity by providing a Court-assigned user identification name and password that serves as their signature for electronically filed documents, attorneys indicate the case number that their document applies to, the party the document is being filed on behalf of, and the type of document (answer, motion, etc.) being filed. The document is then sent over the Internet to the Court's computer which immediately sends a receipt back to the attorney's screen verifying that the document has been received. The receipt can be printed or saved to disk for future reference. Additionally, the system automatically creates a docket entry and makes both the updated docket sheet as well as the document itself instantly available to anyone with access to the Internet and a PACER account. The system also sends e-mail notification of the filing to case participants who are registered to use the CM/ECF system. 

4.  What am I charged for in CM/ECF?

ANSWER: Users are not charged for filing documents using CM/ECF. Case participants who are registered to use the CM/ECF system receive a free electronic copy of all documents filed. When you receive a Notice of Electronic Filing in your e-mail, you will note that the case number and document number are both hyperlinks. You can click on the document number hyperlink to retrieve the pleading. That first retrieval when you have been served is free. Subsequent retrievals, even of documents you have electronically filed, will be charged $.10 per page. The maximum charge for any imaged document is $2.40.  All users are advised to print or save the document during the initial viewing period in order to avoid future charges.

5.  What do I need to file electronically?

ANSWER:  System requirements are minimal and inexpensive. All that is needed is a personal computer, an Internet broadband connection, the Netscape Navigator browser (version 4.6x or higher), and Adobe Acrobat PDF Writer (to convert documents from a word processor format to portable document format). In addition, attorneys may need a scanner for imaging documents to be filed electronically that are not available in electronic format. Also refer to System Requirements for more specific information.

6.  Can the general public view CM/ECF cases and the documents in those cases? 

ANSWER: Access to view cases and documents in CM/ECF is available to anyone with a PACER login and password. A PACER account may be obtained at: https://pacer.login.uscourts.gov and select "Register Now."

7.  Who may file documents in the CM/ECF system? 

ANSWER: Filing a document in CM/ECF requires a login and password. At the present time, filing access is limited to attorneys, bankruptcy case trustees, U.S. Trustee, and Limited Filing Users (i.e. creditor representatives).

8.  Are attorneys required to electronically file documents?

Pursuant to Local Rule 5005-1, any document filed by an attorney shall be filed electronically using the court's Case Management/ Electronic Case Filing system. The clerk is authorized to amend the Electronic Case Files (ECF) Administrative Procedures in keeping with the needs of the court. Attorneys may obtain a registered user login and password for access to the CM/ECF system.

9.  What is a Limited Use Participant?

ANSWER:  An attorney requesting notice only, creditor representative, or court reporter/transcriber may obtain a Limited Filing User login and password for access to the CM/ECF system.  Access to the CM/ECF system is restricted to filing of the following documents:  Creditor Request for Notices, Proofs of Claim, Withdrawals or Transfers of Claim, Reaffirmation Agreements, and Notice of Mortgage Payment Change.

10. What is a Filing Agent?

An individual employed by a registered user may be a filing agent.  A filing agent must submit a registration form and complete training as prescribed by the clerk of court. After registration and training, the filing agent will receive a login and password and the registered user may associate himself/herself to the filing agent's login. When a filing agent is no longer authorized to act on the registered user's behalf, the filing agent's login and password must be disassociated by the registered user.

11.  How do PACER and CM/ECF fit together?

ANSWER: A separate CM/ECF login is required to file documents. Besides your CM/ECF login, a PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) account is also required to retrieve/view documents from the CM/ECF system. A PACER account may be obtained at: https://pacer.login.uscourts.gov and select "Register Now."

 

Access Related

1.  How does an attorney become an authorized CM/ECF user?

ANSWER:  In order to file electronically, you must first register. The necessary forms can be obtained from the clerk's office or on this website. Once these forms have been completed and reviewed by the Clerk's Office, you will be contacted to complete training exercises or provide cross-certification documentation.  Upon completion, a live login and password may be issued that will allow you to access the system to file documents electronically.  In addition, you will need a PACER account to retrieve/view information from the system. A PACER account may be obtained at: https://pacer.login.uscourts.gov and select "Register Now."

2.  Can I have the same filing login for all courts I practice in?

ANSWER:  Since each court assigns the login in the CM/ECF system, it is not possible to obtain a universal filing login.

3.  Can an attorney authorize someone in their office (such as a paralegal) to use their login name and password to file documents in CM/ECF?

ANSWER:  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. 

4.  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?

ANSWER:  The firm PACER account can 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 at: https://pacer.login.uscourts.gov

5.  Why am I getting an invalid login message?

ANSWER:  Some common problems are that both the user code and password should be all lower case. CM/ECF passwords are case sensitive.  If that looks good, check the location of the website in the location window of Netscape or Explorer. Use the "live" login and password for the live database and the "training" login and password for the training database. 

6.  Why do I get the Site Certification pages?

ANSWER: The first time you go into the CM/ECF site, you will get a series of Site Certificate pages, letting you know that the Court is encrypting the data while you are signed on to CM/ECF. On the third screen, you will have the opportunity to check a box that says "Accept this certificate forever." If you check this box these screens will not come up again. Simply click on "Next," "Finish," and finally "Continue" on the last screen. 

7.  Why do I get a second login screen after I've already logged into CM/ECF?

ANSWER:  This is the PACER login screen that you get whenever you request a report or document from a case. The first time you log in, click on the box that says "Make this my default login" and you should not have to log in repeatedly.

8.  I am changing firms.  Do I need to establish a new CM/ECF login and password?

ANSWER: 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 address, change your password, and e-mail information in the "Utilities" option in CM/ECF. If you share a PACER account with the firm, you will need to establish a new PACER login and password. A PACER account may be obtained at: https://pacer.login.uscourts.gov

9.  What should we do when an attorney leaves the firm?

ANSWER: 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 change his/her e-mail notification setup 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. 

 

Procedural

See Local rules and Administrative Procedures.

1.  How do I get my free copy of newly filed documents?

ANSWER:  Attorneys of record and parties in a case that are registered to use the CM/ECF system, receive one free electronic copy of all documents filed. Attorneys and parties will receive an e-mail message containing a hyperlink to the document filed. Click on 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 password 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.

2.  If I forward an e-mail notification I received to another individual, will that individual be charged for the document?

ANSWER: The document within an e-mail notification is accessed by a hyperlink. This hyperlink takes you to a site which will allow the first viewing to be free. The first individual to view the linked document will not be charged. If you forward the e-mail notification without viewing the document, the recipient of the e-mail will be able to view the document for free. Anytime after the first viewing, a charge will be incurred 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.

3.  Is there a limit to the size of the document being filed in CM/ECF?

ANSWER: Yes, the larger the file, the longer it will take to upload into a case. We require file size to be at or below 3 megabytes.  This equates to about 50 pages.

4.  What are the scanner settings for documents uploaded into CM/ECF?

Parties filing documents with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of North Dakota should adjust their scanner settings to allow for a minimum of 300 pixels per inch (ppi) or Resolution (300 dpi).  NARA's Acceptable Image Quality Specifications are:

Scanned images of textual records transferred to NARA must meet the following minimum requirements for scanning resolution and pixel (bit) depth to support archival preservation and continued use.

 

3.2.1 Bitonal (1-bit) scanned at 300-600 ppi.

This is appropriate for documents that consist exclusively of clean printed type possessing high inherent contrast (e.g., laser printed or typeset on a white background). Scanning at 600 ppi is recommended.

 

3.2.2 Gray scale (8-bit) scanned at 300-400 ppi.

This is appropriate for textual documents of poor legibility because of low inherent contrast, staining or fading (e.g., carbon copies, thermofax, or documents with handwritten annotations or other markings), or that contain halftone illustrations or photographs. Scanning at 400 ppi is recommended.

 

3.2.3 Color (24-bit RGB [Red, Green, Blue]) scanned at 300-400 ppi.

Color mode (if technically available) is appropriate for text containing color information important to interpretation or content. Scanning at 400 ppi is recommended.

5.  How can I verify whether or not all the documents I filed electronically were posted?

ANSWER: To ensure the documents transmitted arrive in their entirety, it is important to examine the document after it is received by the court. This can be done by viewing the docket sheet for the case and selecting the transmitted document. The number of the transmitted documents appears on your Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF). 

6.  How will the clerk's office ensure that documents have been filed accurately?

ANSWER: The clerk's office will review every document that is electronically filed to ensure that:

    • the uploaded image matches the case name and number,

    • the correct event was selected from the System,

    • the document was referred to the appropriate document (when necessary),

    • the document indicates a signature, e.g. "/s/ John Doe, and

    • procedural requirements have been met.

7.  How will erroneous docket entries be corrected?

ANSWER:  CM/ECF allows court personnel to edit errors made in the docket entry. Besides making the appropriate corrections, the Court will notify the filer either by e-mail or telephone. When necessary, the filer may be asked to re-file the document. The Court will use a "corrective entry" event, which officially records substantive errors on the docket sheet and will generate a Notice of Electronic Filing. This allows the distribution of the correct information to the participants who originally received the erroneous information.

8.  Will CM/ECF allow docketing in closed cases? 

ANSWER: Yes, CM/ECF allows documents to be filed in closed cases; however, a warning message is seen in
red that the case is closed.  We ask that you call the clerk's office before you attempt this. 

 

Adobe Acrobat Related

1.  What is a PDF document?

ANSWER: Portable Document Format (PDF) is a universal file format that preserves all the fonts, formatting, graphics, and color of any source document, regardless of the application and platform used to create it. PDF files are compact and can be shared, viewed, navigated, and printed exactly as intended by anyone with free Adobe Acrobat Reader software. You can convert any document to PDF using Adobe Acrobat software.  All of the pleadings in the CM/ECF system are stored in PDF format. 

2.  What is Adobe Acrobat?

ANSWER: Adobe Acrobat is a commercial software product from Adobe that allows you to save your documents in PDF (portable document format). Adobe also distributes a program called Acrobat Reader that allows you to view and print (but not create) PDF documents. Further information is available at www.adobe.com

3.  Do I have Adobe Acrobat Writer?

ANSWER: To check if you have Acrobat Writer, follow the steps below:

  • Click on the "Start" button (lower left corner of computer screen).
  • Click on "Settings." 
  • Click on "Printers." 
  • Locate "Acrobat PDF".
  • If it is there, your system has the capability to print to PDF.

4.  I see I can get Acrobat Reader for free on Adobe's website.  Why should I pay for it?

ANSWER: Adobe does provide a PDF Reader for free on its website and that works fine for viewing documents. However, in order to create and subsequently file PDF documents, you will need to obtain Adobe Acrobat PDFWriter, version 3.0 or higher. 

5.  Do I need a scanner?

ANSWER: The actual document you submit as a PDF is usually generated using a word processor or bankruptcy case preparation software. Generally, if you produce documents on a personal computer and print them on a printer, you can produce a PDF version of these documents without a scanner.  If attachments, exhibits, or other items exist only on paper, you will need to scan them to submit them electronically as a PDF. Low-volume scanners are inexpensive.

6.  How do I create a PDF file?

ANSWER:  The optimal method for creating a PDF document for filing in CM/ECF is to create the document directly from a word processing application using Adobe Acrobat's PDFWriter. After you have created the document in your word processing application, "print" the document, and select the "printer" called "Acrobat PDFWriter" from the drop down list of available printers.  That process will actually save a file in PDF format, with a ".pdf" file extension. Also see Creating PDF Documents.

Note: The newer versions of some word processors include the ability to publish a document to PDF built right into the word-processing software.  In WordPerfect 9 the "Publish to PDF" option is on the File menu. This option is not recommended because the file created is unnecessarily large.

7.  How do I save a PDF text file to my word processor?

ANSWER: There are a number of ways to save a PDF file.  See also PDF Document Basics.

  1. If the Adobe Reader opens up within Netscape instead of a separate window, use the Save Frame option under File.
  2. If the Adobe Reader opens in a separate window, use the Save As option under File.
  3. You may also save a PDF document by right-clicking on the link to that document and then clicking on "Save Link As."

 

 Technical

1.  How can I create a shortcut icon on my desk top that will take me directly to the CM/ECF site?

ANSWER: While on the Desktop screen, right click the mouse and then click on "New," then "Shortcut." The next screen will ask for a command line. For example, to setup a shortcut to the CM/ECF live site, type "https://ecf.ndb.uscourts.gov/" in the space and then click "next." Enter the name of the shortcut and click "Finish."  Other options are to bookmark this site or add this site to your personal toolbar.

2.  Where do I get Netscape, Mozilla, or Adobe Acrobat?

ANSWER: Netscape is available free at www.netscape.com. Firefox is available at www.mozilla.org. Adobe also has a website www.adobe.com. 

3.  I can't get to your CM/ECF website, but other attorneys at my firm don't have that problem?

POSSIBLE ANSWER: If you get to the login screen, and the system hangs when you try to complete your login, then something is blocking the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) port 443 (that's the point where we transition from web port 80 to SSL port 443). The systems person at your firm needs to look at the router and any firewalls the firm has set up to determine where the blocking is taking place. Attorneys at a firm may experience this problem while other attorneys at the same firm do not, because they may be directed to different proxy servers. 

4.  When I get an e-mail that something is filed, I can't view the document. What's wrong?

POSSIBLE ANSWER: If you get a login screen when you request the document, make sure you enter your PACER login and password and not your CM/ECF login and password. Also make sure your e-mail system is set to open links with an Internet Browser, e.g., Netscape or Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox. 

5.  When I try to get my document from a Notice of Electronic Filing, I get an "Internal Server Error" message. Is your server having trouble? 

POSSIBLE ANSWER: The first time you use the link in a Notice of Electronic Filing to view a document, you use up the "free look" you get. Every subsequent time you use the link in the Notice of Electronic Filing, you will get a PACER login screen. If you use your CM/ECF login at that point, instead of a PACER login, you may provoke the "Internal Server Error" message. Just hit BACK and try a PACER login and password instead.

6.  How long will it take to transmit or receive a document?

ANSWER: The time it takes to transmit or receive a document primarily depends on the user's Internet Service Provider (ISP), modem speed, and the type of PDF file being transmitted or received. The CM/ECF system will accept both text and image PDF files. The text PDF file is usually the result of saving a document from a word processor in PDF format. The image PDF file is usually created by scanning a paper document in PDF format. The text file can be transmitted and received 15 to 20 times faster than the image file because it is much smaller in size. While this difference in speed is usually not noticeable in a 1 or 2 page document, the difference can be significant when a document reaches about 20 pages in length. 

Here are a couple of rough approximations of what you might expect for upload or download time for different kinds of connections for a megabyte of data (approximately one million characters, spaces included). These are only approximations. 

  • T1 line with little traffic: 1 megabyte per second 
  • DSL or cable: 2-5 seconds per megabyte 
  • 56k modem: 3-7 minutes per megabyte 

7.  I received a "DATA MISSING" error, and was sent back to a login prompt. What's wrong? 

POSSIBLE ANSWER: If you attempt to re-size your browser window, you will provoke the error "Data Missing - This document resulted from a POST operation and has expired from the cache. If you wish you can repost the form data to recreate the document by pressing the reload button." No matter what you do, you will have to log in and start over.  You can minimize your browser window without ill effect, but trying to change its size will guarantee you a free trip back to the login prompt. This is a known bug in the application, and has been reported to the developers and will, we hope, be corrected in a future release. 

8.  I can get a docket sheet, but when I try to retrieve a document I can't read the file?

POSSIBLE ANSWER: You do not need Acrobat software to view a docket sheet, but you do need it to view documents. You might have Acrobat PDF Reader on your machine, but have not connected it to Netscape. 

9.  When I print an image from CM/ECF, the right edge gets cut off?

ANSWER: Click on the print icon. Click on "Shrink to Fit" box on the printer setup screen. Once you change this setting, it should stay that way for all PDF documents. 

10.  I tried to file a document but is says "format not recognized" -- what am I doing wrong?

ANSWER: All documents must be submitted in Adobe PDF (portable document format) with an extension of ".pdf." Two common errors occur. 

First, a user thinks that he/she saved the document in PDF. The user then tries to file the WordPerfect/Word version of the document; not the saved PDF version. 

Second, a user fails to indicate the full path name for the PDF file he/she wants to upload. Because the system could not find the file, it responded with the "format not recognized" message. The solution--provide the full path name when identifying the file (example: "c:\documents\motion.pdf") during the upload process.

11.  I'm trying to docket an event and it tells me that this transaction has already been posted, but I look on the docket and it's not there. 

POSSIBLE ANSWER:  What has probably happened is that you docketed an event for a case, and then clicked on the Netscape back button a few times to get to a point where you could enter another case number and then docketed another event. By clicking the back button, instead of clicking on 'Bankruptcy Events' you are keeping the information pulled for the last case you docketed. As long as you click on the menu item instead of clicking on Back you will be fine - only use the back button to correct a mistake on an event you are in the process of docketing, not to change cases.  You also may want to clear your browser cache.  

12.  Why can I not access a previous page viewed by clicking on the "Back" button on the browser after selecting a link? 

ANSWER: Unlike most programs, a web browser will open multiple windows. In other words, two or more windows in which the browser appears may be active at the same time. Look at the tool bar at the bottom of the screen, this is the same bar where the start button is located. If the Netscape logo appears on two different buttons, you have more than one window open. Click on the button that is not active (not highlighted) to open the previous window. If there is only one window open, click on the "GO" menu item at the very top of the screen; a drop down menu will appear where you can click on the address of the page to which you wish to return. 

13.  I receive a "Data Missing" error when I try to print reports from CM/ECF?

POSSIBLE ANSWER: Some users have reported when trying to print large dockets or other reports from the CM/ECF system that they received an error message stating: "Data Missing - This document resulted from a POST operation and has expired from the cache. If you wish you can repost the form data to recreate the document by pressing the reload button." To fix this problem, we recommend increasing the size of your cache dramatically. In Netscape 4, this can be accomplished by going to: Edit > Preferences. Double click on Advanced. Click on Cache. The size of the memory and disk cache will be displayed. Increase the size of each and click OK. You should close your browser and restart it before continuing. 

14.  When I query a case in CM/ECF, it gives me the previous case I looked at instead.

POSSIBLE ANSWER: Check your Cache settings.

15. When you call the Bankruptcy Clerk's office you were told that you have to clear your cache.

The "cache" is a location on your hard drive where data is stored. When you search the internet, your computer keeps track of every page you have visited and saves this information on your hard drive. We have found that if this file becomes large (i.e., many pages searched), the result may be a loss of docketing/category options.  See Clearing Browser Cache.