CM/ECF FAQs

Registration

  1. Is CM/ECF mandatory in the Fourth Circuit?
  2. Must I register before I can file through CM/ECF?
  3. How do I register to be a filer?
  4. Do I have to register if I have a PACER account and a CM/ECF account at another court?
  5. How do I get an exemption?
  6. Are there any special training or bar membership requirements in order to register and file in CM/ECF?
  7. I already file electronically in the district court, do I have to complete the 4th Circuit training?
  8. How long does it take to register for CM/ECF?
  9. Is there any charge to register or use CM/ECF?
  10. When is the CM/ECF system available?
  11. What help is available for CM/ECF?
  12. Can an attorney authorize someone in the attorney’s office (such as a paralegal) to use the attorney’s login name and password to file documents in CM/ECF?
  13. While registering, I am asked to choose between HTML and Text versions of Notices of Docket Activity. What do I chose?
  14. I am a filing user and would like to add a secondary email to my account so someone else can also receive notification when activity occurs in my cases. How do I add or change the secondary email?
  15. Is there a “How to” guide available?
  16. I got a message that my account is locked. What do I do?
  17. I am a CJA attorney or bankruptcy trustee and have two PACER accounts (one for CJA/trustee use and one for private work.) Each time I access the PACER Report from CM/ECF it automatically uses one of the PACER accounts. What should I do?

Filing

  1. What documents can’t be filed using CM/ECF?
  2. Is there a list of Events available?
  3. Do I need to send the clerk a paper copy of a document filed through CM/ECF?
  4. Can I view pro se filings through CM/ECF and PACER?
  5. What is a Notice of Docket Activity?
  6. Why did I receive a second Notice of Docket Activity for my filing?
  7. Does my document need a certificate of service?
  8. The party or attorney on the other side isn’t participating in CM/ECF. How do I serve them?
  9. Is “/s/” acceptable for electronic filings?
  10. Can I get a daily summary of all my notices or do I have to get a Notice of Docket Activity for every action or entry?
  11. I represent a party that wants to be added to an appeal, such as amicus. How do I do that?
  12. I want to enter my appearance. How do I do that?
  13. How do you add additional attorneys to associate with the case?
  14. I want to file a motion to seal a document or a case. How do I do that?
  15. I made a mistake, such as filing in the wrong case or submitting the wrong document. What should I do?
  16. I can’t access a document in a Social Security case or in a petition for review in an immigration matter. Is there a problem?
  17. How should we file documents with multiple signatures?
  18. How do I comply with the court’s local rule 25(c)(3)(b)(i), to file a brief, motion, or other document in which the sealed material has been distinctively marked?
  19. How do I redact items from pleadings?

Technology

  1. How secure is CM/ECF?
  2. Can I be in CM/ECF and PACER at the same time and go back and forth between the two systems?
  3. How do I generate a text searchable PDF file?
  4. Why can’t I login with my CM/ECF ID and Password?
  5. Having problems loading the CM/ECF Application?
  6. I think I have logged in successfully and I have Java on my computer, but it just stays on the “black” WARNING screen?
  7. What equipment and software do I need to file in CM/ECF?
  8. When I try to submit my document for filing, I get an "XML Tampering" error message.
  9. When I receive a document from the Court and click on a link within the document, I cannot go back to the original document.

More information

Where can I find answers to other questions about CM/ECF?

Registration

Use of the CM/ECF system is mandatory for filings made by counsel in all cases effective June 1, 2008. It is optional for non-attorney filers, who must request leave of Court to file electronically in a particular case.  See Local Rule 25(a) for further information regarding electronic filing requirements.


Yes. An Appellate Filer account is required to file documents through CM/ECF. It is also required to view documents in social security and immigration cases in which you are participating. Register for an appellate filer account by following the Required Steps for Registration as an ECF Filer.


A CM/ECF password and login are required to file documents in CM/ECF. All CM/ECF registration is handled by the PACER Service Center. Register for an appellate filer account by following the Required Steps for Registration as an ECF Filer. The PACER Service Center can be reached at 800-676-6856.


Yes. Your CM/ECF account is an authorization to file in a specific court, and it is separate from your nationwide PACER account. You must register for every court where you intend to be a filer.


Upon motion and a showing of good cause, the Court may exempt counsel from the provisions of electronic filing and authorize filing by means other than use of CM/ECF.


When you register for a Fourth Circuit Filer account, the PACER Service Center provides you with a link to information about the Fourth Circuit's registration requirements. Before approving your registration as a Fourth Circuit filer, the Court requires that you complete the Fourth Circuit Electronic Case Filing Application.


Any one registering with for a Fourth Circuit ECF account must complete the Fourth Circuit Electronic Case Filing Application


The Court must receive your appellate filer registration from the PACER Service Center and your Fourth Circuit Electronic Case Filing Application before your registration can be approved. Registration will usually be completed within a few hours of the Court's receipt of all of your registration material. In exceptional situations, it may take a day. When your registration is complete, you will receive an email from the PACER Service Center confirming your registration. If you have an emergency and need to file immediately, contact the clerk's office at (804) 916-2767 for assistance and directions.


There is no charge to register or to make a CM/ECF filing. Please note that when you access documents through your PACER account, you are subject to the $0.08 per page charge. As in the district court and bankruptcy systems, filers and parties in the case get one “free look” at all filings when they view them from the Notice of Docket Activity, and we recommend that you print or download the documents at that time.


The system is always available (except for routine or emergency maintenance), and you should be able to file anytime. Filings completed before midnight Eastern Time are entered on the docket that day. If you experience difficulties, please contact the clerk's office during normal business hours at (804) 916-2767. Additionally, when the system will be unavailable for routine maintenance and upgrades, there will be a notice posted on the website 24 hours in advance of the outage.


The Fourth Circuit CM/ECF web page contains links to a wide variety of CM/ECF information, including the CM/ECF Attorney Manual. You can contact the clerk’s office Help Desk at (804) 916-2767 for assistance with filing. Help is available from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you are having difficulty registering for CM/ECF or have questions about your PACER or CM/ECF accounts, you should contact the PACER Service Center at (800) 676-6856. If you need to modify or update either your PACER or CM/ECF accounts, you can do so at the PACER website (http://pacer.gov).


Yes, but access should be limited and controlled since whatever is filed under that login and password is deemed to have the attorney’s signature on it.


HTML. The hyperlinks contained in the Notice of Docket Activity (NDA) to the docket sheet and documents will not work in text versions of the NDA.


A secondary account can be added at the time of registration for a login and password. If the account has already been created, you can update your account after logging into Fourth Circuit CM/ECF, by selecting “Utilities”, “Update My Account”, and the “Edit My Information” button. At the login prompt, enter your Appellate ECF Filer login and password and click “Verify Login.” On the Account Update page, select “Personal Info/Address Updates.” To add an additional email address, select “Update Noticing Preferences” and enter the email address in the “Additional Emails” box. If you would like more than one additional email address to receive notification in your cases, list all addresses in the “Additional Emails” box and separate the addresses with a comma. Click “Submit” once all additional emails have been added.




After attempting to log in to CM/ECF three times unsuccessfully, the system locks a user's account. Call the 4th Circuit ECF Help Desk (804) 916-2767 or close your internet browser and wait five minutes, your account will automatically re-set.


CM/ECF allows a filing attorney to permanently associate a PACER login with an ECF filing login. The ECF filing login and PACER login became associated by checking the box "Make this my default PACER login" during a previous session. When they are associated, each time the attorney logs in to file a document the system also logs the attorney in as a PACER customer. This is a problem for those customers that must switch between PACER accounts based on the type of work being performed. To resolve the problem, log on to CM/ECF using your ECF filer account information. Next, click “Utility” in the menu and select “Update My Account”. To remove the default login for your PACER account, click the "Remove the default PACER login" check box and click the "Apply" button.

Filing


1. What documents can’t be filed using CM/ECF?  
Criminal Justice Act vouchers and other documents relating to compensation and reimbursement for representation and for ancillary services and expenses must be filed in paper form, rather than electronically; these documents are maintained by the Court as financial documents separate from the docket.


Yes. You can access it here: Attorney Filing Events


• The clerk may request a paper copy of electronically filed documents as needed.
• Formal briefs and appendices must be filed electronically and in paper form.


Yes. The clerk will scan all pro se filings, including any pro se briefs received in paper format, and will attach these pro se documents to the relevant docket entry. A Notice of Docket Activity will be sent when the clerk’s office files the document, and you may view it by clicking on the link in the Notice of Docket Activity. Documents are identified on the court’s docket sheets by hyperlink to the docket entry number. All scanned pro se documents will be accessible through PACER.


A Notice of Docket Activity is a notice that is generated automatically by the CM/ECF System at the time a document is filed electronically. The notice sets forth the time of filing, the name of the party filing the document, the text of the docket entry created by the filing, a hyperlink to the PDF document filed, and the name of the participants required to receive notice of the filing.


The clerk’s office reviews all attorney filings as part of its quality control procedures. In the event the deputy clerk finds an error or needs to modify the docket text for the event and the filing, the deputy will make the changes and send a new Notice of Docket Activity to the case participants. If you receive a second Notice of Docket Activity for a filing and cannot determine the reason for the second Notice, please call the clerk’s office at (804) 916-2700.


Yes. A Certificate of Service is required for all filings. Make the Certificate of Service the last page of the document. See section II(D)(2) - Preparing Certificate of Service, of the CM/ECF Attorney Manual for more information on Certificates of Service.


When the opposing party or attorney is not an ECF participant, you must serve them in traditional fashion. See Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 25. To ascertain if a party or attorney is participating in CM/ECF, use the "Attorney Service Preference Report" within CM/ECF.


The name of the Filing User under whose login and password the document is submitted must be preceded by an “s/” and typed in the space where the signature would otherwise appear.


PACER gives you the options of a daily summary or individual event noticing. The default is individual event noticing, but you can change that by updating your account information at the Pacer Service Center under “Filer Account Update.” If you prefer a daily summary, select “Daily Summary” instead of “Each Transaction” on the “Notice of Docket Activity Frequency” option.


File the motion using the event MOTION FILED and select the appropriate relief (e.g. FILE AMICUS BRIEF or INTERVENE). In the text box, type in the name of the party who is filing the motion and upload the motion. The clerk’s office will review the motion and add all potential parties and their attorney(s) to the case.


Step-by-step, interactive on-line training for filing an appearance form is available through the Electronic Learning Module for CM/ECF Electronic Filing on the court’s website.


Each attorney who wishes to be added to a case should file an appearance of counsel. The clerk’s office will review the appearance of counsel and add counsel to the case.


File the motion using the event MOTION FILED and the relief SEAL. If the motion is seeking to seal a document that is not already on file with the Court, file the document using the event SEALED DOCUMENT FILED after filing the motion. If the motion is denied, the Court will strike the document.


You cannot delete events or documents after you have committed a transaction to the docket. If you have made an error (filed in the wrong case, submitted the wrong version of a document, etc.), call your case manager at 804-916-2700 for further instruction.


No. Remote electronic access to documents in Social Security cases and immigration matters is limited to the attorneys or parties other than orders and opinions in the case in order to protect the privacy of the individuals involved in those cases. You may inspect these files in person in the clerk’s office. If you are a party or attorney in the case, please note that you can access documents in these cases only through use of your CM/ECF Filer ID.  If your free look has been utilized previously, you will have to login to both PACER & CM/ECF to access the document.


Documents requiring signatures of more than one party may be electronically filed in any of the following ways: (a) submitting a scanned document containing all necessary signatures; (b) representing the consent of the other parties on the document; (c) identifying on the document the parties whose signatures are required and submitting a notice of endorsement by the other parties no later than three business days after filing; or (d) any other manner approved by the Court.


  • In Acrobat 8, choose Tools>>Comments & Markup>>Highlight Text Tool.
  • Select the text to be highlighted. This would be the text that was redacted in the redacted version of the document.
  • Once all highlighting is complete, save the document. You may want to save this under a name that identifies this as the sealed version of your document.

Adobe Acrobat 8 and above (both Standard and Professional) can be used to permanently redact information once a document is in PDF format. For information on redacting in Adobe Acrobat, see:

If you don’t use Acrobat: You can redact information by deleting the text in the word processing version of your pleading. In order to mark the text as having been redacted, you can add the phrase “text redacted” in the place of the redacted information. You can then convert the pleading to PDF format for filing.

TECHNOLOGY

CM/ECF has many security features and has passed an evaluation by the National Security Agency. However, Filing Users agree to protect the security of their passwords. Contact the PACER Service Center and the clerk immediately if you learn that your password has been compromised.


Yes. CM/ECF and PACER are separate and require separate logins and passwords.

WordPerfect versions 9, 10, 11, and 12 include the capability to convert text documents to PDF by clicking “File” on the toolbar and then “Publish to PDF”. Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010 include PDF conversion software. You may use Adobe Acrobat Writer or download free PDF conversion software from any source of your choosing. Interactive on-line training on converting Word or Word Perfect Documents to PDF is available at http://pacer.gov/ecfcbt/dc/cccnvtpdf/. (You may need to allow pop-ups).
Please note that employees of the Court cannot convert files to PDF format for you, nor can they accept emailed submissions and post them for you. If you have problems uploading a document, you may call the Help Desk at (804) 916-2767.


Go to https://pacer.gov/cgi-bin/cmecf/ea-login.pl and change the password on your account.


Some users report that they cannot load the CM/ECF application because the application seems to freeze at the black “CM/ECF WARNING: Closing this window will immediately close the appellate program” screen. In nearly every instance, the reason for this is that the user’s computer does not have the most current version of Java loaded as a software application. You must have the most current version of Java on your PC in order to run CM/ECF.

If you do not have Java on your computer (or if you aren’t sure if you do), go to www.java.com. You will note that there is a question/link next to the “Free Java Download” button which asks “Do I have Java?” If you are not sure whether you have it, this link will run a diagnostic check on your computer and let you know whether it is already loaded. If you need to download or update Java, simply click the “Free Java Download” button and follow the directions on the subsequent pages. The Java download is free, and the program takes only a few minutes to load.

You must have any internet pop-up blockers disabled in order for CM/ECF to work properly. Also, the Google Toolbar, which is installed with Java, must be removed for your system or you will encounter problems with CM/ECF.


After a successful login, the CM/ECF menu could take up to 2 minutes to load. If after 2 minutes you still don’t get the CM/ECF menu, call the PACER Service Center at 800-676-6856.


The following hardware and software are needed for CM/ECF:

1) Computer

  • A personal computer running Windows with Internet Explorer 6.0 (or higher) or Mozilla Firefox 3.0 (or higher). Suggested browsers are IE8 and Firefox 3.6.17 or higher.

      OR

  • An Apple Macintosh computer running Snow Leopard or higher can be used to run all parts of the Appellate case management system.  Mac users should review the Alert for Apple Macintoch ECF Filers from PACER. 
      OR

      OR
  • If you have a Mac that does not meet these requirements, there are two options: (1) obtain a waiver of electronic filing from the clerk’s office or (2) run your Mac as a virtual Windows PC using software such as Vmware Fusion for Mac. Please note that software such as Fusion only works on Intel-based Macs. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but it is beyond the court’s control. This problem does not affect the court’s ability to send you electronic notices, and Mac users should still register for CM/ECF so that they can receive notices.

7) Java Runtime Environment (JRE): The most current version of Java is required for CM/ECF to operate on your computer. It is available at www.java.com.  Select the “Do I have Java” to automatically detect which version is installed on your computer. If you do not have the most current version of Java, the website will prompt you to download the recommended update. For information related to Macintosh computers see item #1.


This problem seems to be related to Adobe Acrobat and how the document was saved. From your computer, open the pdf file for the document you are attempting to file. Click on "File," "Save As," and then save the document to replace the existing file. Now go back to CM/ECF and file your document. If the document still can't be filed, open the pdf file, click the print button and select the pdf printer from the pulldown screen of printer options. This will create a new pdf file of the document and you should be able to file it. If the problem persists, please call the Help Desk at 804-916-2767.


9. When I receive a document from the Court and click on a link within the document, I cannot go back to the original document.
There are two options to address this problem. The first option is to save the document to your local system. You can do this by selecting the disk icon on the toolbar at the top of the document and saving the document to the location of your choice. This will allow you to access the original document repeatedly without additional fees. The second option is to open the link in a new window: right-click the link you want to open, select copy link location, open a new browser window or tab and copy the link to the address bar of the new window/tab. This method will allow you to have the original document and the linked document open on your machine at the same time however, if the window containing the original document is closed, you will have to pay a PACER fee to view the document again.

More Information

The PACER Service Center's Frequently Asked Questions site at http://www.pacer.gov/psc/efaq.html provides answers to many additional questions about CM/ECF.