Frequently Asked Questions

What is Electronic Filing?

The electronic filing system streamlines the process of creating, filing and noticing legal documents by permitting attorneys in selected civil cases to file documents with the Court and deliver them to opposing parties directly from their computers using the Internet. It has the potential to provide substantial savings to attorneys, their clients and the Court while improving access to Court records. Benefits include: 24 hour access to file or view documents; immediate creation of docket entries; immediate access to updated docket sheets and to the documents themselves; potential elimination of paper files that can be misplaced or lost; potential savings in copying, courier and noticing costs; and the ability to store and search documents electronically.

What do I need to file electronically?

Attorneys will need the following hardware and software to electronically file, view, and retrieve documents in the electronic filing system: A personal computer running a standard platform such as Windows, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP or Macintosh. An Internet provider using Point to Point Protocol (PPP) Netscape Navigator version 4.6 or 4.7 or Internet Explorer Version 5.5. Netscape 6 is not recommended for use with CM/ECF or Internet Explorer version 5.5. The CM/ECF technical staff are currently testing Netscape version 7.02 and Internet Explorer version 6.0 to certify its compatibility with the Bankruptcy and District CM/ECF systems. However, we currently have some users accessing the system using Netscape version 7.02 and Internet Explorer version 6.0 with positive results. In either case, your browser must be JavaScript-enabled. Adobe Acrobat PDF Writer software to convert documents from a word processor format to portable document format (PDF). Acrobat Writer Versions 3.X , 4.X, 5.0, and 6.0 adequately meet the CM/ECF filing requirements. The most recent version, 6.0, is available from retailers for approximately $220 - $299. The discount that Adobe previously offered to attorneys has been discontinued. However, there may be volume discounts that attorneys can receive if ordering multiple copies for their firm. For viewing documents, not authoring them, Adobe Acrobat Reader only is needed. A PDF compatible word processor like Macintosh or Windows based versions of WordPerfect and Word. A scanner to transmit documents that are not in your word processing system. (Updated: July 2003)

Is ECF Browser Specific?

District Version 1 and Bankruptcy Version 2 are compatible with both Netscape versions 4.6 or 4.7 and Internet Explorer version 5.5. Bankruptcy Version 1 is compatible with Netscape versions 4.6 or 4.7. The CM/ECF technical staff are currently testing Netscape version 7.02 and Internet Explorer version 6.0 to certify its compatibility with the Bankruptcy and District CM/ECF systems. However, we currently have some users accessing the system using Netscape version 7.02 and Internet Explorer version 6.0 with positive results. In either case, your browser must be JavaScript-enabled. (Updated: July 2003)

How does electronic filing work?

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. The system also sends e-mail notification of the filing to all the parties who desire electronic notice of the filing.

How do I get started?

In order to file electronically, an attorney must be admitted to practice before the Court and must have previously registered to file electronically. In addition, the case must be designated by the Court for electronic filing. Attorney Admission and Electronic Filing Registration forms can be obtain from the Clerk's Office at any Court location or over the Internet from the court's home page.

How are cases selected for electronic filing?

Electronic filing is appropriate for nearly all civil cases. The determination of whether electronic filing will be used in a particular case will most likely be made at the initial Case Management Conference (CMC), although the decision can be made at any time. The Court has modified its Case Information Statement (CIS), which is submitted along with the initial pleading of each party, so that a party can provide the Court with advance notice that it has an interest in filing electronically. The Court has also modified Local Rule 16.3(b) to add electronic filing as an agenda topic at the CMC. Attorneys who want to have a case designated for electronic filing should bring that desire to the attention of the presiding judicial officer as soon as possible.

I tried to file a document but it says “format not recognized”—what am I doing wrong?

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 s/he saved the document in PDF. The user then tries to file the WordPerfect version of the document; not the saved PDF version.

Second, a user fails to indicate the full path name for the PDF file s/he 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.

I can get a docket sheet, but when I try to retrieve a document I couldn't read the file—what gives?

You do not need Acrobat software to view a docket sheet, but you do need it to view documents. You might have Acrobat PDF on your machine, but have not connected it to Netscape. The solution--open Netscape: Options, General Preferences, and in the dialog box add application/pdf; extension pdf and indicate path to Acrobat.exe file.

How do I file a response to a motion?

From main menu, CLICK on Civil Events. CLICK on Answer & Responses. CLICK on Motions. Select the motion.

How do I file a dismissal order?

Judges approve dismissal orders before filing, even those brought under Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a). Your best bet is to a file motion with the proposed dismissal order as attachment.

I tried to scan my document into PDF but a lot of errors appeared

You are probably trying to scan the document via optical character generation (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; but this process has many problems and should not be done before submitting to CM/ECF. It is permissible to perform OCR on PDF documents after they are in the CM/ECF system, since any OCR errors will not placed in the official documents at the court.

Where do I get Adobe Acrobat?

Adobe's website is Attorneys can get it for half price through an Adobe legal promotional offer by calling 1-888-502-5275 toll free.

I am having problems with PACER, what do I do?

PACER (public access to court electronic records) is not related to the electronic filing program. If a user has trouble with PACER, they should call the PACER in San Antonio, Texas at 1-800-676-6856. The PACER internet address is:

Why do I get error messages caused by apostrophes?

The use of apostrophes in certain fields in the CM/ECF system has been known to cause problems which the AO is attempting to fix as soon as they are discovered. There is little or any indiciation of the cause of the problem described by the error messages that you receive. Until this type of problem is completely eliminated, just note that apostrophe's may cause problems and their use should be avoided if possible.

My machine locks up at the login screen, but other attorneys at my firm don't have that problem—why me?

If you get to the login screen, fill it out 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. At least two firms here have had this problem.