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Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ: (Sub-topics listed below...)

Overview
Reference Materials
Registration
Training
Security Controls
User Information
System Access
System Capabilities - Filing
System Capabilities - Other
Specifics for Attorneys

Overview

Attorneys admitted to the bar of the Court, as well as those admitted pro hac vice, are required to register as Filing Users of the Court’s Case Management/Electronic Case Filing System.  Except as expressly provided or unless permitted by the presiding Judge, a Filing User is required to file electronically all documents as set forth in the Administrative Procedures for Electronic Filing of Civil and Criminal Cases.

Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) provides a number of significant benefits and features for courts, attorneys and the public:

  • Full case information, including the docket and filed documents are readily available to judges, chambers staff and clerk’s office personnel simultaneously.
  • Registered attorneys can file and retrieve court documents 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
  • Attorneys filing over the Internet automatically create docket entries.
  • Attorneys, parties and the general public are able to view case records using the Internet.  This includes the ability to view the full text of all filed documents (subject to any limitations the court might impose).
  • Attorneys can receive notices electronically in ECF cases; this eliminates the costs to both the court and attorneys of handling and mailing paper notices.  It also greatly speeds delivery and allows easier tracking of case activity.
  • Maintaining files in electronic form reduces physical storage space needs.
  • Since CM/ECF uses Internet standard software, the out of pocket cost of participation for attorneys is typically very low.

 

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Reference Materials

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Registration

An attorney must register with both PACER and ECF in order to file documents electronically.  An attorney admitted to the Bar of this court, including an attorney admitted pro hac vice, may register for ECF. 

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Training

Attorneys admitted to the bar of this court must attend a workshop held by the court before being admitted. See Attorney Admissions

Hands on training is available to attorneys and support staff. Requests for hands on training should be emailed to cmecf_training@txs.uscourts.gov.

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Security Controls

Numerous controls have been built into CM/ECF. The major technical controls are described below.

  • User Identification and Authentication: Only valid users who have log-ins and passwords for CM/ECF can get access to the CM/ECF system. Assignment of CM/ECF accounts for filing is authorized by the individual court. User IDs for CM/ECF public access are maintained by the PACER Service Center.
  • Authorization and Access Controls: Authorization and access controls for the CM/ECF application are in place and monitored by the court or by PACER Service Center personnel. These controls regulate who has access to particular types of information. Moreover, non-court users do not have direct access to the court's internal system.
  • Data Integrity and Validation Controls: Documents filed in CM/ECF are automatically given a unique "digital signature" that can be used to determine whether someone has modified it.
  • Audit Trail Mechanisms: CM/ECF provides many logs and audit trails of access to the system. In addition, the Internet access firewalls have intrusion detection. Mechanisms are also used to detect tampering with the system. The AO has an ongoing program of testing the effectiveness of these security controls.
  • Replication: We maintain a complete, real-time back-up copy of the CM/ECF system at a site outside Houston. When service from the main CM/ECF computers is disrupted due to maintenance or disaster, the back-up server will come online and ensure that access to records and electronic filing remains uninterrupted.

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User Information

1. How many users can submit documents at once?

ANSWER: There is no fixed limit.

2. How many people at a time may view a document? How many people at a time may view the docket?

ANSWER: There are no limitations for either function.

3. Will the creator of the docket entry be identified?

ANSWER: Yes. All entries can be identified by the name of the person that logged in and submitted the entry. Whether and how a person's name appears in a docket entry may be determined by the court (e.g., full name, initials, etc.).

4. Is there a limit to the number of aliases a party may have?

ANSWER: No.

5. How will signature of documents be handled for documents filed electronically?

ANSWER: The user log-in and password required to submit documents to the Electronic Filing System serve as the Filing User's signature on all documents filed with the Court. They also server as a signature for purposes of Rule 11, Fed. R. Civ. P., the Local Rules of the Court, and any other purpose for which a signature is required in connection with court proceedings. The name of the Filing User under whose log-in and password the document is submitted must he preceded by an "/s/" and typed in the space where the signature would otherwise appear. A Filing User who electronically files any document requiring the signature of other individuals must either (1) submit a scanned document containing the necessary signatures; or (2) indicate on the filed document by the designation "/s/" that the original document has been signed. The original document containing the original signatures of the persons other then the Filing User must be retained.  See Administrative Procedures for Electronic Case Filing

6. What technical expertise is required?

ANSWER: CM/ECF is easy to learn and requires little technical experience to use. The basic technical skills needed are familiarity with using Windows, a web browser, Adobe Acrobat, a scanner and email.

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System Access

1. Will there be restrictions on who may file documents using CM/ECF?

ANSWER: Each court determines to whom filing logins and passwords are issued.

2. How is filer identity authenticated?

ANSWER: Authentication is currently completed at login. Each user is required to identify himself or herself by presenting a valid combination of user name and password. Upon doing so, access to the site is granted.

3. Can the general public view 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.   PACER offers convenient electronic access to case file documents, listing of all case parties, reports of case related information, chronologies of events entered in the case record, listing of new cases, judgments or case status, and a calendar of events.  However, certain cases are restricted from public view pursuant to Judicial Conference policy and the Privacy Act.

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System Capabilities - Filing

1. How does the system handle the filing of a multi-part motion?

ANSWER: The types of motions that an attorney or court personnel can file are displayed in a drop down window. The user can select one or a list of motions, using the control key and the mouse. The filer should select as many different motions from the list as required to accurately reflect the reliefs sought. CM/ECF then processes each of the motion parts, one at a time, leading the filer through the steps necessary to complete each part. Orders ruling on multi-part pleadings can dispose of each relief separately.

2. When a user files a pleading with the court does the system automatically serve the other parties? And, do the other parties just get notification of a filing or do they get the actual document?

ANSWER: When a court user or attorney files a document with the court, a notice of electronic filing is generated that includes information about what was filed, the text of the docket entry, the unique document stamp, and a list of case participants that receive email notification of the filing and a list of those that do not. The notice of electronic filing sent to those listed as receiving email notification contains a hyperlink to the document.

For users participating in ECF, receipt of this notice through the court's transmission facilities constitutes "service" by parties as required Fed.R.Civ.P.5(b) and Fed.R.Crim.P.49(b). Other parties who are not registered CM/ECF filers must be served in the traditional manner, with paper documents.

3. Will the system support scanned documents in color?

ANSWER: Yes, the system does support scanned and all other documents in color, however, filing colored documents is discouraged because the size may be an issue.

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System Capabilities - Other

1. How does CM/ECF handle sealed records?

ANSWER: Effective January 1, 2007 our administrative procedures for electronic filing allow electronic filing of sealed documents. The procedures require that certain documents, which were previously filed under seal at the discretion of the filing party, now always must be filed under seal. View Section 6C(1) Administrative Procedures. More detailed information on filing sealed documents and exhibits.

2. How does CM/ECF handle ex parte filings or pleadings that are otherwise sensitive in nature?

ANSWER: In criminal cases, attorneys may file ex parte documents and motions using the Exparte Document and Exparte Motion events under the Sealed Events category. In civil cases, attorneys should file sensitive ex parte documents using a Sealed Event that most closely matches the type of document being filed. Other documents may be filed using the Sealed Document or Sealed Exhibits events, and accompanied by a Motion to Seal with a proposed order that will not be sealed and should not contain sensitive information.

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Specifics for Attorneys

1. Can an attorney add new attorneys to the database?

ANSWER: Only court staff with appropriate permissions may add attorneys to the database as system users.

2. What should an attorney or court user do if the document he or she is filing is not listed in the pick list?

ANSWER: Each court maintains its own event dictionary. If a user wishes to file a document that is not listed in the pick list, they can choose "other" and text in the type of document.

3. Is CM/ECF browser specific?

ANSWER: CM/ECF is compatible with Netscape versions 4.6 or 4.7 and Internet Explorer version 5.5 / 6.0.7 and Firefox 3.0. Your browser must be JavaScript-enabled.

4. Is CM/ECF word processor specific?

ANSWER: No, you may use any word processor that can convert documents to PDF.

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

ANSWER: Access to view cases and documents in CM/ECF will be available to anyone with a PACER login and password. PACER offers convenient electronic access to case file documents, listing of all case parties, reports of case related information, chronologies of events entered in the case record, listing of new cases. However, as a result of the policy recently adopted by the Judicial Conference, the public cannot view documents filed in Civil Social Security Appeal cases or Criminal cases.

To defray the costs of PACER and CM/ECF, the Judicial Conference has set a fee which applies to all users, although courts may exempt certain persons, such as indigents or bankruptcy case trustees. Parties entitled to documents as part of the legal process receive a free electronic copy, although they will be charged for replacement copies, whether in paper or electronic form. The public may view CM/ECF case files for free on the public terminals located in the Clerk's Office.

6. Will submitting a long document monopolize the system to the detriment of other users? How long will it take to transmit/receive lengthy documents?

ANSWER: A user submitting a large document to CM/ECF will not interfere with other users' access. The system uses web-based technology which is designed to service large numbers of users simultaneously.

The time it takes to transmit or receive a document primarily depends on the user's Internet Service Provider (ISP), modem speed, and the size of PDF file being transmitted or received. Generally, the larger the file, the longer it will take to load. Our procedural order will limit the size of documents that can be filed. In most instances, however, the size of the document will not be restricted by the electronic filing process.

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 using Adobe Acrobat PDFWriter. The image PDF file is usually created by scanning a paper document in PDF format. The text file can be transmitted to the CM/ECF application faster than the image file because it is much smaller in size. While the 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.

7. How will signature of documents be handled for documents filed electronically?

ANSWER: The user log-in and password required to submit documents to the Electronic Filing System serve as the Filing User's signature on all documents filed with the Court. They also server as a signature for purposes of Rule 11, Fed. R. Civ. P., the Local Rules of the Court, and any other purpose for which a signature is required in connection with court proceedings. The name of the Filing User under whose log-in and password the document is submitted must he preceded by an "/s/" and typed in the space where the signature would otherwise appear. A Filing User who electronically files any document requiring the signature of other individuals must either (1) submit a scanned document containing the necessary signatures; or (2) indicate on the filed document by the designation "/s/" that the original document has been signed. The original document containing the original signatures of the persons other then the Filing User must be retained. See Administrative Procedures

8. What happens if a document is filed in error?

ANSWER: Contact the CM/ECF Helpdesk for further instructions.

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