|Daniel J. Lehmann
Public information officer
January 12, 2005
Court Updates Docketing System Beginning January 19
CHICAGO–A major step in modernizing court record keeping occurs January 19, 2005 when the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois launches a case management system that in the near future will accept electronic case filing.
Called Case Management/Electronic Case Filing, or CM/ECF, the computer application ultimately will allow documents to be filed electronically, orders to be entered and distributed via the Internet, and notices to be sent by e-mail. Once fully operational, the system will automatically create docket entries and provide instant access to updated docket sheets and case documents via a computer from anywhere.
“This replaces a docketing system that dates from the 1980s. It is a major step in updating the court’s record keeping system, one that will increase access to documents and better serve all involved in the judicial process–lawyers, judges, litigants ” said District Judge James F. Holderman, who serves as the court’s judicial coordinator for CM/ECF.
Starting January 19, all new cases–still submitted in printed form on paper–will be scanned and docketed by staff of the Clerk of Court onto the CM/ECF system. All existing dockets will be switched to CM/ECF as well. However, scanned images from those existing cases will be moved to CM/ECF over time.
Following the January 19 launch, the clerk’s office will take about a month to work out any internal issues encountered managing the new docketing system. Once those have been resolved, likely in late winter, attorneys will be registered and trained to use CM/ECF. Registration and training details will be announced later. If all goes as planned, the first electronic case filings via the Internet will be accepted in early spring 2005. Attorney participation will at first be voluntary, however, it may someday become mandatory.
Electronic access to new and existing court data will remain available through public viewing terminals in the Clerk of Court’s offices in the Chicago and Rockford courthouses, and the PACER/RACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records/Real-Time Access to Court Electronic Records) programs. PACER/RACER may be accessed through the District Court’s web site for viewing, or downloading at eight cents per page. Congress directed that electronic access be funded by user fees to recoup program costs.
The eventual switch to electronic filing prompted several changes in the Local Rules. A general order on electronic case filing, plus changes to rules on document form, proof of service and service by electronic means, are viewable on the District Court’s web site at www.ilnd.uscourts.gov.
CM/ECF was created to accept documents in a portable document format, or PDF. PDF retains the way a document looks, so the pages, fonts and other formatting are preserved. Attorneys will continue to create documents using word processing software, and then save the documents in PDF format. They will then log onto the court’s CM/ECF system, using a court-issued login and password. By following a series of simple prompts to provide information about the case, party and document to be filed, the PDF document is then attached and submitted for filing. An electronic receipt will be e-mailed from the court confirming the submission.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts designed the system and is phasing in its use in district and bankruptcy courts across the nation. The program will permit the federal court system to move away from processing and storing tons of paper.
Questions about CM/ECF may be submitted via e-mail to Ted Newman, Judicial Support Manager, at email@example.com.