CM/ECF Overview

GENERAL COMPUTER TERMS

Adobe Acrobat: Software manufactured by Adobe Systems, Inc. and used almost universally to convert word processing (text) and imaged files to PDF (portable document format).

PDF (Portable Document Format): CM/ECF accepts only PDF documents, with the exception of the List of Creditors (Matrix). “Portable Document Format” is a format into which documents created by various programs can be converted using Adobe Acrobat software. Each computer program has a unique method for formatting documents. Thus, a document created by one word processing program (a text-based document) may not look the same in or even be accessible, using a different word processing program. Converting documents into PDF format is a way to preserve the integrity of a document and make it viewable to anyone. The feature of Acrobat utilized to convert documents is “Adobe PDF Writer.” An Acrobat user can “print” or convert a document to a new, but identical document in PDF format, leaving the original document intact. Acrobat can also convert an image file to PDF format. Documents such as deeds or pictures that do not exist in text form can be scanned to create image files, which in turn may be converted to PDF format. A user can also combine a text-based document with one created by scanning (image file). Text-based PDF documents are searchable, while image-based PDF documents are not.

Browse: A Windows operation of navigating through drives and folders to find and select a specific file.

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Browser Window

Upload: The process of copying a file from a user’s computer into the CM/ECF system.

Browser: A software program which provides a user-friendly interface allowing a user to access information and services available on the Internet. Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer are two of the most popular WEB browsers.

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Browser

URL (Universal Resource Locator): The naming scheme used to find WEB pages. It is similar to a street address, but referred to as a WEB address. The URL for the training database is http://ecf-train.njb.uscourts.gov . Our court’s URL is www.njb.uscourts.gov.

Hyperlink: A URL in a document which is most often underlined and highlighted. Hyperlinks permit users to move from one area of a web based program to another or from one web page to anther.

Toggle: (Alt + Tab) Allows a user to move easily between multiple open programs.

Ctrl Key: A key on a computer keyboard located on either side of the space bar that allows a user to make multiple selections or perform other shortcuts.

Copy (Ctrl + c) and Paste (Ctrl + v): Universal key commands or short cuts that enables the user to copy information from one document or screen to another.

Ctrl + f: A universal key command or short cut that enables a user to find specific text in a document or web page.

CM/ECF TERMS

CM/ECF Main Menu: The blue banner across the top of the CM/ECF screen that contains access to the following items: Bankruptcy, Adversary, Query, Reports, Utilities, Logout and Search.

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Categories and Events: A category is collection of similar events which appear under the Bankruptcy and Adversary main menu selections. For example, the category called Motions/Applications includes various types of motion and application events. Each type of document within the category is a separate event. A motion to avoid lien, a fee application and proof of claim are types of events. Events are often referred to as docket events because the item appears on the docket or in the claims register. Among other things, CM/ECF uses events to: (1) identify particular types of documents or proceedings so searches can be conducted by type of event; (2) help insure that for certain types of activities a related activity occurs, such as collecting a filing fee; (3) provide standard “canned” docket text when a docket entry is being created. The term “event” may be used to describe the occurrence of a particular activity in the case, such as the filing of a document. It may also refer to an activity that changes the database but does not create a docket entry, such as adding an attorney to the list of attorneys who have appeared in a case.

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Categories

Default: A common suggested value displayed automatically by CM/ECF. Defaults can be accepted if correct or typed over if they are incorrect. The date of docketing as the “filed date” is an example of a default in CM/ECF.

Attachment: A supporting document filed electronically as an “attachment” to the main document or pleading. For example, a brief in support and/or proposed order are uploaded as attachments to a motion and will appear in the same docket entry.

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Attachments Screen

Check Box: Used to include choices from a list. Check boxes are designed so that you can choose one or more items from a list.

Pull-Down List: A window that displays a list of selections of data. When you see the selection you want, click once to highlight it. To make multiple selections, hold the control key down when making the second, third, etc. selections. You may also drag your cursor to highlight more than one item in a pull-down list

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Variable Box: A box that enables users to enter requested information that will appear in the docket text. For example, you will be asked to enter a description of the relative property during the docketing of a Motion for Relief From the Stay.

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Variable Box

Prefix Box: Allows users to select from a list of predefined “prefixes” for specific docket events, i.e., First Modified Plan.

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Prefix Box

Radio Button: A round selection button used to choose between selections or items. Radio buttons are designed so that you can choose only one item.

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Radio Buttons

Silver Bullet: An icon in the shape of a silver ball. This icon is used in CM/ECF reports. Clicking on the Silver Bullet will display more information about the item.

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Silver Bullet

Virtual Document: An event designed to be docketed without a document. A No Asset Report e-filed by a Trustee is an example of a virtual document.

Notice of Bankruptcy Case Filing: A notice produced in CM/ECF that is generated at the completion of the case opening process ONLY. The notice bears the seal of the court and the “filed date” of the petition. This official document can be used as proof of the filing of a petition.

Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF): A notice produced in CM/ECF that is generated at the completion of all events which create an entry on the court’s docket. All registered participants of CM/ECF will receive the NEF via electronic mail. The NEF also provides system participants one free view of the filed document.

BASIC CONCEPTS

General Order: The order signed by the Chief Judge approving the Administrative Procedures. The Order, among other things, directs that a CM/ECF Login and Password, constitutes an attorney’s signature for purposes of signing a document. The court strongly encourages all e-filers to review the Court’s General Order, Administrative Procedures, Commentary to the Administrative Procedures and the Local Rules. These document contain insight into many procedural issues relative to Electronic Filing.

Administrative Procedures: The formal document that sets forth the framework for electronic filing in our district. This document defines our court’s procedures and rules for signing, filing and verifying documents by electronic means.

Filing Creates a Docket Entry: Filing a document in CM/ECF requires the user to respond to various prompts and questions such as supplying the case number, identifying the type of document being filed and deciding if the document relates to a previously filed document. Many steps in this process construct a “canned” portion of the docket text for that event. There are also CM/ECF screens that provide drop down menus and “free text” boxes that give the user the ability to enhance the “canned” docket text to explain more precisely what the document is about. In many instances, if the filing requires a hearing, the date, time and location of the hearing will be scheduled during the event, will appear in the docket text and will be placed on the judge’s calendar automatically.

Problems Caused by Lengthy Scanned Documents: Scanned images can be converted to PDF, but the resulting image or graphic file is much, much larger than a PDF document of equal length created by converting a text (word processing) file. File size is important in two ways: (1) it takes much more time to bring up an image than a text file; (2) a large file requires more storage capacity on our court’s system. For these reasons, an Order has been entered limiting the size of an exhibit to 20 pages. For Exhibits larger than 20 pages, the filer must file an excerpt no larger than 20 pages, provide the excerpted pages on a CD-ROM in PDF format and provide a complete copy of the document (not excerpted) as a “Chambers Copy.”

Filing Fees: Attorneys participating in CM/ECF must pay filing fees at the end of filing a document which requires a fee. A payment box will display requesting the filer to enter their credit card information.

Help Desk: A person or persons designated by the court to assist external users with problems or questions they may have relative to CM/ECF. The United States Bankruptcy Court, District of New Jersey has a dedicated email address and phone numbers to be used for help with cm/ecf.  Please use the phone numbers or email address listed below for questions relating to cm/ecf only.

Email Address: cmecf_help_desk@njb.uscourts.gov

Camden Helpdesk Phone Numbers: 856-361-2301

Newark Helpdesk Phone Numbers: 973-645-3366

Trenton Helpdesk Phone Numbers: 609-858-9401

The court’s help desk will answer any questions you may have about the CM/ECF filing process. However, technical questions regarding hardware or software issues should be directed to the attorney’s technical staff.

 COMMON TASKS

CM/ECF utilizes many common tasks or routines during the docketing process. Each task consists of a variety of screens that perform specific functions in a docket event. The inclusion of a specific task or routine will vary depending upon the desired functionality of the event. The following is a list of common tasks:

  • Select party
  • Create Attorney/Party Relationship
  • Setting Hearings
  • Link Documents
  • Browse for & Upload PDF/Attachments
  • Terminate Deadlines
  • Terminate Documents
  • Edit docket text
  • Key Commands/Shortcuts

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Select Party(s): This routine is used to identify the party on whose behalf a document is being filed. The following are helpful hints when searching for parties.

Search Hints for Creditor Database

• Searching is case sensitive.

• Include punctuation.

• Partial names can be entered.

• Significant words or names are effective (Radio for Radio Shack or Northwest Radiology).

• Try alternate search clues if your first search is not successful.

• Wildcards (*) are not required but may be used.

  • A list of the parties in the case is presented. If the party on whose behalf the document is being filed is listed, click on the name to highlight and click [Next]. If more than one party is filing the document and they are on the list, hold down the control key and click on all applicable parties. (NOTE: When filing for more than one party, you must first add any missing parties to the list before selecting parties; you may not select one party, add a party and then select the second added party). If the party is not listed, click [Add/Create New Party].

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  • Complete the Search for Party screen by entering the  last/business name of the party. Note: The search mechanism is case sensitive.

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  • If the Party search results produces a list of names and the party you are searching for is listed, click on the name to highlight and click [SELECT NAME FROM LIST]. If the list does not include the party you are searching for, click [Create new party].

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  • Enter appropriate information. Note: if the debtor is pro se enter all available information. If the party is represented by an attorney only the party’s name should be entered. Click [Submit] when complete.

IMPORTANT: Ensure that the “Role” field is completed.

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Creating an Attorney-Party relationship: If any of the following occur you will be presented with a screen that states “The following attorney/party associations do not exist for this case. Please check which associations should be created for this case.”

• A new attorney was added for a party previously listed in the case

• The party was added, but the attorney was previously listed in the case

• A new party and attorney were added

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• Place a check in the box to create the association and click   [NEXT].

NOTE - this screen may also be an indication that an  incorrect party or attorney was chosen on a previous screen.

Setting Hearings: When filing a document that typically requires a hearing, such as a motion, you will be given the opportunity to set the hearing within the docket event. This routine will also place the hearing on the judge’s calendar.

  • Click on the hyperlink which appears after the Judge’s name. The link will take you to a web page containing a list of available hearing dates and times for that particular judge. Determine an appropriate date and time and click [Back] button on your browser to return to the Hearing  Information screen.

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  • Enter the hearing date and time, click on AM or PM, choose the location from the pull down list, click [NEXT]

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Linking Documents: Establishing a link between the document being filed, and a related document that was previously filed creates a relationship in CM/ECF that makes it easier to find a subset of documents relevant to the document being filed. For example, an Objection must be linked to the document to which it refers. If a link is to be created place a check in the box next to “refer to an existing event” and click [NEXT].

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  • Select the category of documents to which your document refers and click [NEXT]. For example, if the document you wish to create a link to is a motion, scroll to “motion,” click to highlight and click [Next].

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  • A list of docket entries that fall under the category you choose is presented. Place a check in the box to the left of the entry which relates to your document and click [NEXT].

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Browse for and Upload PDF/Attachments: This common task is used to locate the PDF document and attachments to be filed.

Click on the [Browse] button to navigate to the folder on your computer or network containing the PDF document.  If you intend to upload attachments, be sure to click the yes radio button.

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Use the pull-down arrow to the right of the “Look in” box, to view the drive structure of your computer.

All drives available to you will appear in a drop-down box. Click on the drive which contains the file you wish to download. Note: When searching for a PDF document, be sure to select All files {*.*} in the “Files of Type” box.

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If the file you are looking for is in a folder, double click on the folder to open it.

Double click the name of the document to upload. Click [Next].

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  • Repeat the previous steps to locate each attachment. (1) Select a document type general description by clicking on the drop down arrow under TYPE. If the name of the attachment is not listed, enter the name of the attachment in the DESCRIPTION box. Click [ADD TO LIST]. Repeat this process for every attachment. (2) When finished adding the main document and all attachments, click [Next].

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Steps 1 and 2

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Step 3

  • NOTE: The text entered in the TYPE and DESCRIPTION boxes appears in the docket text. This allows a reader to know what the attachment is without having to open it.

Terminating Deadlines:If you are presented with the opportunity to terminate a deadline, skip that screen. Terminating deadlines is a court function ONLY.

Editing Docket Text: CM/ECF has been designed to limit the amount of editable docket text. The execution of specific docket routines, such as Add Party places “canned” language in the docket text. If the correct information was entered during the docketing process, than the docket text should not require editing.