Electronic Case Filing - Frequently Asked Questions

1.  What is CM/ECF?

CM/ECF (Case Management/Electronic Case Filing) replaces the court's existing case management system with a new system based on current technology, new software, and increased functionality. This new system can maintain electronic case files and offers electronic filing of court documents over the Internet.


2.  What benefits will CM/ECF bring to attorneys?

The ability to file documents 24 hours a day, seven days a week over the Internet. The ability to access the court's files 24 hours a day, seven days a week over the Internet. Concurrent access to the court's files with other attorneys and court personnel. Instant notification of filings by the court and other parties. Reductions in mail, courier, and copying expenses. Secure document storage.


3.  How does electronic filing work?

A document is created using a word processing program. Instead of printing the document on paper, it is saved as a PDF document. The user accesses the system via the Internet using a court-issued login and password. The user enters the case number, the name of the party, and the type of document (answer, motion, etc.) being filed. The system automatically creates a docket entry. The system provides a Notice of Electronic Filing confirming that the document has been successfully filed and e-mails the Notice of Electronic Filing to all attorneys in the case who are registered for CM/ECF. If an attorney in the case is not a registered CM/ECF user, a paper copy of the document must be mailed by the filing party.


4.  Do documents filed in the CM/ECF system have to be in a particular format?

The system is designed to accept only documents in PDF (Portable Document Format). This format was chosen because it allows a document to retain its pagination, formatting and fonts no matter what type computer is being used to view or print the document.


5.  How do I get a login and password?

You must register with the Court to receive a login and password. The registration form is on the Court's web site at www.tned.uscourts.gov. You may also obtain the form at the Clerk's Office. You will receive your login and password by e-mail sent to the e-mail address provided on the registration form.
The password you received will have been computer generated. Once you receive your login and password you can change your password if you wish. To change your password, you must go to the Utilities Feature of the ECF system. DO NOT CHANGE YOUR LOGIN.


6.  How do I learn to use the CM/ECF system?

There are several ways. You can sign up for hands-on training on the court's web site at www.tned.uscourts.gov/cmecf. You can also sign up for the hands-on training by calling the Clerk's Office. Training sessions are offered in every division. Detailed instructions on using the system are included in the User Guide.


7.  How do I start receiving e-mail notices from CM/ECF?

Log onto the CM/ECF system with your court-issued login and password. Click on "Utilities." Click on "Maintain Your Account." On the screen titled "Maintain User Acct," click on "E-mail Information" at the bottom of the page. Enter your e-mail address in the box for "Primary e-mail address." You can have notices sent to other e-mail addresses by checking the box "to these additional addresses" and entering the other e-mail addresses in the box to the right. You can choose to receive an individual notice for each filing or a summary notice with all filings each day. Either the individual or the summary notice will contain hyperlinks back to the documents. You can choose to receive the e-mail notices in HTML or text format. You should choose the format based on the type of e-mail program you use on your end. After completing the information requested on the screen, click on "Return to Acct Screen." Click on "Submit" then click on "Submit Again." You will receive a confirmation message on the screen that your e-mail preferences were successfully updated. Make sure to keep your e-mail address current, so you don't miss notices.


8.  Can I forward Notices of Electronic Filing?

Yes. Many firms have expressed an interest in creating rules on their mail servers so they can forward incoming Notices of Electronic Filing. The sender of Notices of Electronic Filings is tned cm-ecf@tned.uscourts.gov. The Court also recommends that users set up a secondary e-mail address that is either (1) a central repository address that several persons have access to, and/or (2) the e-mail address of someone who works closely with you in your cases (secretary or legal assistant) to ensure that nothing is missed.


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

Yes. Each attorney of record must have his/her own login and password to file documents in CM/ECF. Use of the login and password, along with the "s/" followed by the attorney's typed name on the document, constitute the attorney's signature. However, all attorneys in the firm can share a PACER login and password for viewing documents.


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

Access to court documents costs $0.10 per page. The cost to access a single document is capped at $3.00, the equivalent of 30 pages. The cap does not apply to name searches, reports that are not case-specific and transcripts of federal court proceedings.

By Judicial Conference policy, if your usage does not exceed $15 in a quarter, fees for that quarter are waived, effectively making the service free for most users.


11.  How is counsel added to a case?

By electronically filing a Notice of Appearance.


12.  What kind of notification does the attorney of record receive on a case?

All registered CM/ECF users will receive e-mail notification of all filings, which includes a hyperlink to the document. Participants who are not registered users must be mailed a copy of the filing.


13.  Is the system available 24-hours a day, seven days a week?

Yes. However, if maintenance or repairs are needed, the system may be down temporarily.


14.  How do I file a Complaint?

Complaints can be filed electronically by attorneys or in paper in the traditional manner. If you are filing in paper, all pleadings must have original signatures, and the complaint must be accompanied by a CD-ROM containing the document in PDF format. The Clerk's Office will file the complaint in the system. If you are electronically filing a complaint, please refer to the following document for detailed instructions: http://tned.uscourts.gov/docs/atty_case_opening.pdf


15.  How do I file a proposed order?

Proposed orders should NOT be filed in CM/ECF. Proposed orders must be e-mailed as an attachment in WordPerfect format to the email addresses provided in Chapter VI, section C.2. of the User Guide.


16.  Will pro se cases be included in CM/ECF?

Yes. However, in order to be allowed to file electronically, a party to a pending proceeding who is not represented by an attorney will have to file a motion and ask permission to do so from the presiding judge. If the judge permits, the pro se filer may register as a Filing User in the Electronic Filing System solely for purposes of the action. Registration is in a form prescribed by the Clerk and requires identification of the action as well as the name, address, telephone number and Internet e-mail address of the party. If, during the course of the proceeding, the party retains an attorney who appears on the party's behalf, the attorney must advise the Clerk to terminate the party's registration as a Filing User upon the attorney's appearance. Otherwise, pro se filers will file their documents on paper in the traditional manner. The Clerk's Office will scan these original documents into CM/ECF.


17.  Will Social Security cases be included in CM/ECF?

With the exception of the administrative record which will be filed on paper and will not be scanned into the system, all documents, notices, and orders in Social Security cases will be filed electronically. The Clerk's Office will make a docket entry stating that the administrative record is available in paper form at the Clerk's Office. All other documents in the case, including briefs, will be filed and served electronically unless the Court otherwise orders. To address the privacy issues in a social security case, Internet access to the individual documents is limited to counsel and court staff.


18.  How can I verify whether the document I filed electronically was posted?

You can examine the document after it is received by the court. This can be done by viewing the docketing sheet for the case and selecting the transmitted document. The number of the transmitted documents appears on your Notice of Electronic Filing.


19.  How will the court handle filings of sealed documents?

Detailed instructions for filing a sealed pleading can be found at: http://tned.uscourts.gov/docs/atty_documentation.pdf


20.  How will the new system affect transcripts prepared by the Court Reporters? How will their transcripts be accessed/obtained?

The issue of filing transcripts in the CM/ECF system has not yet been resolved. For the present time, in order to obtain a transcript, the court reporter must be contacted in the same manner as is current procedure.


21.  How is the docket corrected if something is incorrectly filed or mistakenly gets filed in the wrong case?

The ECF system will not allow you to make changes after a filing has been submitted. If you file an incorrect document or enter a document into the wrong case, you must notify the Clerk's Office. If appropriate, the Clerk's Office may correct the error. However, you may be advised that you must refile the document or petition the Court for other appropriate relief.


22.  Will electronic case filing alter filing/response deadlines?

Filing/response deadlines will remain the same. Attorneys participating in electronic filing will actually have more time to respond since the additional three days allowed to respond to documents served by mail is also provided for documents filed electronically. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(e).


23.  How are electronically filed documents signed?

Use of the attorney's login and password constitutes a signature.


24.  When a user files a pleading in CM/ECF does the system automatically serve the other parties or does the user have to do something extra to serve others?

When a document is electronically filed, the system generates a Notice of Electronic Filing that includes the text of the docket entry and a hyperlink to the document. The system e-mails the Notice of Electronic Filing to all other parties who are registered Filing Users. The Notice of Electronic Filing includes a list of case participants who receive e-mail notification of the filing and a list of those that do not. Parties not receiving e-mail notification of the filing must be served in the traditional manner.


25.  Is a certificate of service required?

A certificate of service must be filed indicating which parties were served electronically and which were served by mail. To determine which parties must be served by mail, you will go to Utilities->Mailings->Mailing Info for a Case, and enter the case number. The system will tell you which parties are served electronically by the system and which parties must be served in the traditional manner. A sample certificate of service can be found in the User Guide Appendix F.


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

Yes.


27.  Does CM/ECF meet the requirement of Fed. R. Civ. P. 79(b) which states that the Clerk maintain a copy of final judgments?

Yes. The system can create a report with the information required by Rule 79.


28.  How secure is CM/ECF?

CM/ECF has many security features and has passed an evaluation by the National Security Agency. Access to the system is through a court-issued login and password.


29.  Do the Local Rules of the Eastern District of Tennessee on electronic case filing recognize the three day response period allowed by the federal rules when a document is mailed?

The Local Rules of the Eastern District of Tennessee provide at E.D. TN. LR 5.2(d): "Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5(b)(2)(D) and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 49(b), the Notice of Electronic Filing generated by the Court's Electronic Case Filing System shall constitute service of the electronically filed documents on persons who have consented to electronic service and waived the right to service by personal service or first class mail." 

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5(b)(2)(D) provides: "Service under Rule 5(a) is made by: . . Delivering a copy by any other means, including electronic means, consented to in writing by the person served. Service by electronic means is complete on transmission. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(e) provides: Additional Time After Service under Rules 5(b)(2)(B), (C) or (D). Whenever a party has the right or is required to do some act or take some proceedings within a prescribed period after the service of a notice or other paper upon the party and the notice or paper is served upon the party under Rule 5(b)(2)(B), (C) or (D), 3 days shall be added to the prescribed period.

The Local Rules are consistent with the Federal Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure, as they must be.

Also, please see our User Guide. Chapter I, section C, paragraph 6: "Effect on Time Computation. . .Electronic service under E.D. TN LR 5.2 is complete upon transmission and is equivalent to service by mail within the meaning of Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(e). Therefore, the additional three days to do an act or take a proceeding after service of a document by mail applies when service is made electronically."


30.  Are there any fees associated with electronic filing?

Access to court documents costs $0.10 per page. The cost to access a single document is capped at $3.00, the equivalent of 30 pages. The cap does not apply to name searches, reports that are not case-specific and transcripts of federal court proceedings.


31.  What constitutes a page in CM/ECF for billing purposes?

Billable pages are calculated in two ways in CM/ECF. A formula is used to determine the number of pages for an HTML formatted document. Any information extracted from the CM/ECF database, such as the data used to create a docket sheet, is billed using a formula based on the number of bytes extracted. For a PDF document, the actual number of pages are counted to determine the number of billable pages.


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

Attorneys (and pro se litigants registered as Filing Users) receive one free electronic copy of all documents filed electronically. Attorneys will receive an e-mail message containing a hyperlink to the document. Click the hyperlink to view the document. The hyperlink will expire after the earlier of these two events: the first use or 15 days. Any time that same hyperlink is accessed after it has expired, the user will be asked for a PACER login and will be charged to view the document. If additional, secondary e-mail addresses have been added to the account, one "free look" will also be available to the first person from the secondary e-mail list who opens the mail message and clicks on the document hyperlink. Users should print and/or save the document during the initial viewing period in order to avoid future charges.


33.  The electronic notice I received has a link to the docketing sheet. Am I charged to view the docket sheet?

Yes. The usual PACER fees are charged for accessing a docket sheet and any documents accessed from the link on the docket sheet.


34.  Why should I sign up for the 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.


35.  How do I register for PACER?

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


36.  How do I learn to use the CM/ECF system?

There are several ways. You can sign up for the hands-on training by calling the Clerk's Office or you can visit ECF Training Information for tutorials and training documentation.


37.  What are the minimum requirements?

A personal computer with Windows or Mac. A PDF-compatible word processor (Macintosh, WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, etc.). If your word processor is not capable of converting documents to PDF, you will also need PDF writer software, such as Adobe Acrobat PDF Writer. Internet Access with Netscape 4.7 or higher or Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher. Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher (available for free but only allows viewing of PDF documents).


38.  What equipment is recommended?

Pentium PC or Mac w/64MB RAM. Windows 95 or higher. Internet access speed of 56k or higher. A scanner to create electronic images of documents not in your word processing system (exhibits). PDF writer software, such as Adobe Acrobat PDF Writer.


39.  What settings should I use for scanning?

Scan documents at a resolution of 200 to 240 dpi. Scanning at resolutions greater than 240 dpi tend to clutter the electronic transfer. All documents should be scanned with a "Black and White" setting unless the exhibit is in color.


40.  Is there a maximum number of pages or a maximum size for documents filed in CM/ECF?

The system will reject files over 20MB in size. If your PDF document is larger than 20MB, you can separate the document into multiple files. To check the size of a file, right click on the file and select properties. (1MB = 1000KB)