14 Aug What is CM/ECF and What Does it Do in Bankruptcy Court?
If you are involved in a bankruptcy proceeding you may come across the terms CM, which is an abbreviation for the words Case Management, and ECF, which stands for Electronic Case Filing. CM/ECF is the computerized case filing and record management system used by the bankruptcy court to maintain and process bankruptcy court case records.
Beginning in 2001 the bankruptcy courts began adopting an electronic records filing system that was originally developed for the Federal District Court in the Northern District of Ohio to help manage a heavy load of asbestos related cases in 1996.
Most of the federal courts have adopted the CM/ECF system. The Oregon Bankruptcy court and the federal district court in Oregon participate in this electronic record keeping program. The federal district courts followed the bankruptcy courts and now over 200 courts in the federal system use CM/ECF in some form or another. A list of courts using CM/ECF is maintained by the federal courts administrative office. The Federal Judiciary website has a detailed explanation of how the courts file, store, and manage their case files electronically.
The system is decentralized with each court operating its own software and computer servers to manage its own records. The software is written in Perl and Java and generally runs on the Linux operating system. The software is customized for the needs and preference of each court so the options available to a user can vary from court to court. Documents must be filed in a portable document format (pdf) that was created by Adobe Systems Incorporated.
Courts generally require the lawyers practicing before them to use the ECF system to file document with the court. The case files are available to the public through the PACER system over the internet with documents viewable at 8 cents per page. Lawyers are required to provide an email address to be used for official notification when documents are filed. That email notification provides an individual appearing in court without an attorney or an attorney representing a party in the case a one time opportunity to view documents filed with the court for free.
The PACER system provides a link to the public for access to electronically filed documents. With a PACER account it is possible to access all electronically filed court documents in every participating federal court in the country. This is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
As a lawyer, I can file a document in bankruptcy court from anywhere in the world at any time of the day. I remember filing a court document from my hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand while I was on vacation.
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