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All ECF Tips and Tricks
If you get an error message while attempting to pay your fees through the Pay.Gov panel screens, keep in mind that your ECF transaction has likely been docketed regardless. The last screen available to you when docketing is always the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF). If the event is a fee-based event, the Pay.Gov panel will superimpose itself over part of this final screen.
In the unlikely event that Pay.Gov gives you an error message, don`t assume that your ECF docketing was incomplete. Look at the NEF screen; go on PACER to confirm the entry; or please click here to contact the court to confirm it for you. Avoid refiling the same fee-based document because then you are faced with two fees instead of one.
Sometimes a transaction error from Pay.Gov is itself an error. To confirm that the payment was actually accepted, go to Utilities-Internet Payment History and verify that the completed transaction is recorded there. If the fee is still owing, it will be listed under Utilities-Internet Payments Due.
If you receive the error message "Document contains code which may cause external action such as launching an application. PDF document can't be accepted", it means the PDF:
- does not comply with PDF format standards;
- is encrypted or password protected;
- contains scripts which can launch an external application;
- contains internal attachments; or
- contains audio and video content.
If using a fillable PDF, such as one of the court’s Local Bankruptcy Forms, start with a clean form (one that does not have variable data from another filing). When you have completed the LBF, flatten it by printing to PDF, unless it is a motion for relief from the automatic stay filed on LBF #720.80, in which case save the form in Adobe using "Save As" so the respondent can modify the form.
If converting a word processing document to PDF, print to PDF (by selecting print and using Adobe PDF as your printer).
When filing on behalf of another attorney in the firm, it is recommended you sign the document in the format “/s/ Joseph Attorney for Belinda Counsel” where Belinda Counsel is the attorney of record and Joseph Attorney is filing a document on her behalf. When e-filing, Joseph Attorney should uncheck the box so that he will not associate himself to the client(s) as he will then become an attorney of record along with Belinda Counsel.
To determine the size of a document when you have it open in Adobe Acrobat, click on File > Document Properties or press [Ctrl][D] and go to the Description tab. The File Size field is near the bottom of the screen.
To keep the size of PDF files as small as possible for faster uploading and to keep within the required size limit:
- After saving the completed PDF, click on File > Save As Other > Reduced Size PDF.
- Avoid scanning paper documents to PDF (which produces image documents). If you have an electronic version of a document, convert to PDF using an option within the program that created the document, or by opening the file in Adobe and saving as a PDF.
- If scanning a paper document cannot be avoided, choose the scanner setting of black and white (not gray scale or color) and set the resolution to 300 dpi.
- When using Word, use the Save as Adobe PDF option.
You might also investigate the upload speed of your internet service provider (ISP). ISPs typically set the speed for download faster than upload. When shopping for an ISP, inquire about upload and download speeds.
To break a PDF document into smaller segments in Adobe, use Organize Pages > Extract Pages and save each set of pages with a different file name.
When uploading documents, make sure each PDF is fully uploaded before attaching the next one.
When adding a represented party in ECF, do not enter an address unless the party is the debtor (including in an adversary proceeding as a plaintiff or defendant), an adversary defendant, or a creditor when filing a claim. Per Rule 7005, represented parties other than debtors are served through their attorneys. Adding their address in ECF results in their receiving notices, increasing noticing costs to the judiciary and other parties.
The clerk accepts the certificate of completion from the provider filed without Official Form 423 as sufficient proof of compliance.
Many word processing packages have a "Publish to PDF" feature. While this is useful for preserving complex formatting such as hyperlinks, it is not recommended for use with any ECF document that will be acted upon by a subsequent user, including: (1) Any proposed order or judgment that will be submitted to the court via Order Upload, which should be flattened before submission by choosing "Print" and selecting Adobe PDF as the printer; and (2) A motion for relief from the automatic stay filed on LBF #720.80, which must be saved in Adobe using "Save As". In most instances, word processing documents should be converted to PDF by choosing "Print" and then selecting Adobe PDF as the printer.
If you can see the Bankruptcy and Adversary headings but there are no categories underneath them, you probably didn’t pay a filing fee and got locked out. Go to Utilities-Internet Fees Due and pay, then you should be able to file again. If you still do not see the menu items on the Bankruptcy or Adversary menus, right click, and choose Refresh.
The Court announces new LBFs via e-mail to ECF users and inserts the LBF # and last revision date in the title of related events (menu items) in ECF. Such changes are also posted to the main page of the court’s website and court bulletin boards, usually 4-6 weeks in advance. Clicking the LBF button, available on various ECF screens, will take you to the forms page of the court’s website where you can find all LBF’s in fillable pdf format. You usually need not wait until the mandatory date to begin using a form; if you begin using it immediately, there is less chance you will forget to use it when mandatory.
Some filers have had difficulty with data when merging Official Form 427, the Reaffirmation Cover Sheet, with the Reaffirmation Agreement, Official Form 2400A. Problems can be avoided as follows: After separately completing each form, “print” the final forms to PDF and then merge the files.
If you can see Query, Reports, and Utilities, but not Bankruptcy or Adversary, you probably logged into PACER, not ECF. Log out and try again using your ECF login and password. If the categories are still missing, try clearing your cache.
When linking to a related document, you are prompted to “select the category to which your event relates”. If you are unsure of the category, simply click the first item on the list, hold the [Shift] key, and click the last item on the list. This will select all categories and thus bring up all docket entries in the case.
The court sets the following reaffirmation agreements for hearing:
An agreement for which the debtor was not represented by an attorney during the course of negotiation if the agreement is not for a consumer debt secured by real property.
A Chapter 12 or 13 reaffirmation for debtor attorney fees (file using the event Reaffirmation Agreement for Debtor Attorney Fees in a Chapter 12/13 Case).
You may electronically file a proof of claim without requiring an ECF login and password. Official Form 410 (Proof of Claim) will be produced and supporting documents can be attached. You will be able to print or electronically save your form after filing, and you will know the claim number assigned to you. Click here for a link to further information in the court website.
Creditors can register preferred addresses with the Bankruptcy Noticing Center (BNC).
Mailing matrices are accessed from Utilities-Mailings:
List of Creditors. This list is accessed either from the Query menu or from Utilities-Mailings. Preferred addresses are displayed, undeliverable and duplicate addresses are noted, and PACER charges are incurred. When run in 3-column format, addresses submitted by the debtor for which the preferred address was substituted are also separately listed. This option lists creditors, debtors, any debtor’s attorney, the trustee, and the U.S. Trustee, but it does not include attorneys for other parties. This document may be printed onto Avery 5260 adhesive labels.
Mailing Matrix by Case. Use this option to ensure service on all parties and creditors. This option is available in ECF but not PACER, and is accessed from Utilities-Mailings. Preferred addresses are displayed, undeliverable and duplicate addresses are noted, and no PACER charges are incurred. If the default “All” is selected, all parties and creditors and their attorneys are included. It is also possible to narrow the label selection to certain parties, creditor committee members, only creditors who have filed claims, etc.
It is permissible to combine a motion for relief from stay and a motion for relief from co-debtor stay. To electronically file, choose both “Relief from Stay” and “Relief from Co-Debtor Stay” on the motion pick list as follows: Click Relief from Co-Debtor Stay, press the [Ctrl] key, and while holding it down, click Relief from Stay.
Pages you view on the Internet (including ECF screens and documents) are stored in temporary files for quick viewing. If these temporary files are not deleted on a regular basis, they can create problems including the opening of a second window within ECF when a menu option is selected, inability to use the backspace and delete keys, and old versions of updated documents being displayed. You can tell that you are having cache-related problems when one of the aforementioned problems occurs or when an ECF menu category (e.g., Bankruptcy) remains outlined even though you have selected another menu category (e.g., Reports).
Therefore, it is recommended that you regularly clear your Internet browser cache and the temporary storage area on your hard drive. You may want to confer with your information technology resource person about the best way to accomplish this.
When submitting a proposed judgment or default judgment, use Upload Order-No Separate Motion and choose Default Judgment, Judgment, or Judgment (Stipulated) as the Order Description. This is necessary for the judge to get the correct order language when signing the order.
Per LBR 5005-1(e), an electronically filed document described in FRBP 1008 or a properly completed, signed, and filed LBF 5005 with respect to the document and a scanned electronic replica of the signed document must be maintained by the filing ECF Participant or the firm representing the party on whose behalf the document was filed in accordance with LBR 9011-4(c)(1) until the later of the closing of the case or the fifth anniversary of the filing of the document, except as otherwise proved for trustees bu the U.S. Department of Justice.
If you must file a document but are unable due to technical issues at the court, your office, or your internet service provider, per LBR 5005-4(b)(5), you may file in paper with a certification regarding inaccessibility.
When submitting a notice and order of sale or auction (including LBF’s #753.50, 753.55, 760, and 760.5), please allow a week for court processing before the notice is issued by the Bankruptcy Noticing Center. Proposed orders which do not allow sufficient time between the date the notice is issued and the proposed sale or auction will be rejected by the court.
To determine who was served with a filed document, you must look two places:
1. To determine who was served electronically via ECF, go to the Docket Report while logged into ECF (not PACER) as follows:
Click on Reports on the ECF Main Menu Bar.
Click on Docket Report.
Enter the case number and click “Include links to Notice of Electronic Filing” if it is not already checked. Click Next.
Find the document of interest and click on the silver ball to the left of the document number, then click Display Receipt.
The NEF appears. Scroll to the bottom and find the heading Notice has been electronically mailed via ECF to: for a list of parties served via ECF.
2. To determine who was served by the filer or the Bankruptcy Noticing Center (whether by mail, fax, e-mail, or EDI), look at the filed certificate of service. For documents served by parties, it may be part of the original document or a separate docket entry entitled Certificate of Notice linked to the original document. A BNC Certificate of Notice will be a separate docket entry linked to the order, judgment, notice, etc. and is generally docketed within two business days of the filing of original document. The list of those served accompanies a copy of the document, and delineates all who were served, and how.
If you’re not receiving e-mail notices from ECF, it could be due to one of the following:
- Your e-mail address has changed and you have not changed it in ECF. To change a primary email address, go to www.pacer.gov and click on Manage My Account in the top right corner. To change a secondary email address, log into ECF and go to Utilities, select Maintain Your ECF Account, click Email Information, correct the address, click Return to Account Screen, and click Submit.
Your email account is full. Most Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) limit the amount of email you may store on their server. Contact your ISP to determine the limit and delete the emails you no longer need.
- Your Internet Service Provider has a spam blocker. Contact your ISP.
To recover your missing email notices, you can log into ECF and click on the Reports header, select Docket Activity, make sure the box labeled Only cases to which I am linked is checked, enter the date range for the missing emails, and click Run Report.
When uploading an order, make sure you have met the following requirements:
- At least 4" of blank space at the top. Pleading paper may be used as long as all numbers and lines of the pleading paper format are within 3/4" of the left margin of the paper.
- The body of the order is followed by 3 centered pound signs (###).
- On the left side of the last page, include the signature of the individual presenting it, preceded by the words“Presented By” and followed by the presenter’s name, address, telephone number, and capacity.
- There is no signature line for the judge.
- Include a list of names and addresses of only contesting parties who are not, and whose attorneys are not, ECF Participants.
- Be sure when using a fillable pdf (e.g., LBF), you save the finished document in Adobe. Do not print to PDF or publish to PDF a document which is already in PDF, as this may create problems when the judge applies the order language (e.g., the text of the order will “scrunch” and be unreadable).
- The proponent of the order or judgment, unless the proposed order is submitted on an LBF, must certify compliance with the requirements of LBR 9021-1(a)(2).
- Refer to LBF #9021 for a list of motions for which no order should be drafted or uploaded unless permitted or directed by the court, as the court usually enters a form order or otherwise grants the requested relief.
To comply with the court’s local rules, when filing a document other than a Local Bankruptcy Form (LBF), you must list only the names and addresses of those who were conventionally served; it is no longer necessary to list parties served electronically via ECF. To determine who falls into which categories, click on Utilities-Mailings...-Mailing Info for a Case.
ECF participants have complained that they receive email Notices of Electronic Filing (NEF’s) of documents in which they have no interest. In particular, ECF participants receive NEF’s in bankruptcy main cases if they are associated with the adversary proceeding, even if the adversary is closed and they have withdrawn from or were never involved in the main case.
To avoid receiving notices for bankruptcy cases when you are only involved in the related Adversary Proceeding, go to Utilities - Maintain Your ECF Account. Click the Email Information button. On the screen, choose the radio button Send notices for adversary proceedings in which I am directly involved but not for their related bankruptcy cases. Click Return to Account Screen and on the next screen you must click Submit for any changes to become effective.
If your client’s involvement with a case has ended, you may remove your client and yourself from the case by e-filing the text-only event Miscellaneous-Request for No Further Notices.
Another option available to you is to learn to manage your NEF’s using the Rule Agent that typically comes with your e-mail software. For example, you can instruct the Rule Agent to route NEF’s with certain subject line keywords to Trash or another folder. For more information, contact your IT support professional or e-mail software provider.
When submitting a stipulated order or judgment, do not file a separate stipulation or motion unless: (1) the motion involves a fee (e.g., compel abandonment of property or withdrawal of referral, which must first be filed as a motion); or (2) you need to stop or delay the imminent entry of a court order (e.g., discharge), in which case file the stipulated order first as a motion using the appropriate event, then upload the same document as an order and link to the motion.
In all other situations, the stipulation/motion language should be included in the body of the stipulated order/judgment or follow the “###” denoting the end of the order. All required signatures must be designated using “/s/ Name”. The order must be uploaded using Upload Order - No Separate Motion.
When filing a signed document, the e-filer must designate each signature in the format “/s/ Name” in each required place on the document. E-filers may also designate their own signature by affixing a stamp of their scanned handwritten signature.
If you have made an error in ECF, please click here to contact the court. This will ensure that error is fixed in the most efficient way and you are not working at cross purposes with the court.
Click on the Utilities heading.
Under Your Account heading, click Maintain Your Login/Password. You will be redirected to PACER Manage My Account. Alternatively, you may go directly to PACER at www.pacer.gov and click on Manage My Account in the upper right.
You may encounter a situation where your uploaded Eorder document is rejected. A short message will appear with an exception code displayed in red. Listed below are the various exception codes with suggested methods for reformatting the PDF so that it will be compatible with E-Orders.
PDFfmt: You may have selected a non PDF document. Open the document with a PDF viewer to make sure it is a properly formatted document. The court recommends the use of the Adobe Acrobat Reader for this test. If it is not in PDF format, use your PDF software to convert it. Try uploading again.
PDFpwd: The uploaded PDF document has security features enabled which may be in the form of a password. Open the document and deselect or turn off any security related feature such as a password, protected signatures, or encryption and save the document and try uploading it again.
PDFfail:An unexpected program failure occurred which cannot be attributed to any particular document formatting error. Try uploading the document again. If it fails again please click here to contact the court.
PDFsize: The document has been found to exceed the page dimensions of 8.5 by 11 inches in portrait mode. You can check the page dimensions of the PDF document with Adobe Acrobat Reader by right clicking anywhere on the document page. Then select Document Properties, then select the Description tab. Page size (dimensions) will be revealed in this window. To repair the document
1) rescan the original 8.5 by 11 inch document with a scanner configured to produce 8.5 by 11 inch PDF, or
2) Open your document, choose File/Print; change your printer name to Adobe PDF, then print. Save the new document. Try uploading again.
PDFlen: You can determine the actual character/byte size of your PDF document by right clicking anywhere in the document. Then select Document Properties and Description. Your document size is greater than 50MB. Determine if you can remove blank pages, and unnecessary text. Save the document, check the Description for the size and try again.
Another option is to use the Acrobat Pro PDF Optimizer. Open the document with Adobe Acrobat Pro, click on pull down option Advanced, and then on the PDF Optimizer menu option. Save the document to a new name, and then try again.
Another option may be to "flatten" the document. Open the document with Adobe Acrobat and print the document to a file by selecting File/Print/Printer Name= Adobe PDF. Save the new document. Try uploading again.
PDFfont:You may have changed or added fonts to an original PDF form provided by the court with a PDF editor. Not all fonts are compatible with PDF utility programs used by the ECF system. The best solution is to always start with a new form from the court's website. Do not use a form you have saved. Do not change the fonts or font size when inserting your text.
Another method is to "flatten" the document Open the document with Adobe and print the document to a file by selecting File/Print/Printer Name= Adobe PDF. Save the new document. Try uploading again.
PDFstamp: The court's electronic stamping program is not compatible with your PDF document. Open the document with Adobe Acrobat and print the document to a file by selecting File/Print/Printer Name= Adobe PDF. Save the new document. Try uploading again.
It is very important to use the correct event (menu item) in ECF. Not only does it ensure that the item appears on the docket correctly, it often helps the court manage the case by setting or terminating a deadline or case flag, stopping a discharge from automatically being entered, setting a hearing, linking correctly to a response, objection or notice, complying with statistical reporting requirements, etc.
To locate the correct event, a Search option is available on the blue menu bar. Users can search for menu items and events by a word or word fragment. Clicking on the desired option begins the filing process.
Alternatively, when you are in a category with many events such as Motions/Applications, entering a key word in the text box above the list will result in the full list being replaced by a list of just those events with the key word. Clicking on an event in the "Available Events" list will cause the event appear in the "Selected Events" list. After choosing one event, if you are docketing a multiple part motion, use the event search to find your next event, then hold down [Ctrl] and click on the entry; this entry will now also appear in the "Selected Events" list. Once the desired events are in the "Selected Events" list, click Next to proceed with filing.
If you are still not sure of the correct event, please click here to contact the court. Do not guess!
The PACER login page has a link to help you reset a PACER username or password.
To reset a username, you must know your PACER billing email address and either your account number or your first and last name and date of birth. To reset a password, you must know your PACER billing email address and either your account number, your username, or your date of birth.
You will receive an email prompting you to answer the security questions you entered when you created or updated your PACER account. When you have successfully answered those questions, you will be prompted to reset your password.
If you are trying to link your PACER account to your ECF account so you can efile, and you have forgotten your ECF login or password, contact the court.
You can avoid fee errors as follows:
Always verify that you are filing a document in the correct case by looking at the case number and debtor’s name displayed on most ECF screens, and opening and viewing your pdf document before pasting it into the ECF field.
If a fee document is stricken or the court advises you to refile it, use one of the following events: Motions/Applications - Relief from Stay Refiled with No Fee or Miscellaneous - Refile Fee Event with No Fee or Claims Actions - Refile Transfer of Claim with No Fee or Creditor Claimant Entries- Refile Transfer of Claim with No Fee.
If you have an error when filing a case or document, do not refile until you verify that the case or document was not filed. You can verify by checking the Docket Report, doing a query on the debtor's name, or calling the court.
If you have filed a document in error that requires a fee, please click here to contact the court. The court will let you know whether a refund can be issued.
If you are trying to attach several different pdf’s as attachments, but the end result is that the same pdf is attached multiple times, the problem may be that you are not waiting for each attachment to fully upload before proceeding to the next one.
You may file an installment fee case in ECF using Open a BK Case or Case Upload, and change the amount in the fee field to the amount to be paid with the filing. Be sure to file LBF 110 using Bankruptcy > Motions/Applications > Pay Filing Fee in Installments. The court will accept payment of installment filing fees with credit card or ACH payment via Pay.gov.
To pay installment filing fees through ECF, click the Miscellaneous category, enter the correct case number and choose the filing event based upon case chapter: Installment Fee Payment - Ch [X] (pay.gov). No document will be filled or attached to the entry. After accepting the final docket text, the user will receive the Pay.gov payment screen to submit their payment.
Any document which will be served by the court through the Bankruptcy Noticing Center (BNC) must not exceed 8.65 x 11.15 inches, or it will be rejected by the BNC and stricken by the court. It is important to ensure that your PDF conversion software and scanner are producing PDF’s which do not exceed 8.5 x 11 inches. When the document is open in Adobe, the dimension appears in the bottom left of the screen. If a scanned document exceeds 8.65" x 11.15", to resize it you need to Print to PDF: Select File > Select Print, and then change your defaulted printer to Adobe PDF (Page Scaling should be “Fit to Printable Area”).
If you didn’t pay a filing fee on the day you filed a document or the subsequent day, you may be “locked out” of ECF. If you are locked out, you can log into ECF, but your Bankruptcy and Adversary menus will be blank. To remove the lockout, simply go to Utilities-Internet Fees Due, pay the fees, and then your filing privileges will be restored. If after payment, your menus do not appear, you may need to clear your cache. If that isn’t successful, please click here to contact the court.
Any documents to be filed with a docket entry that total 50,000 KB (50 MB) or less make up a Primary Document which is to be filed as a single PDF. Any required local bankruptcy form(s) must be the first page(s) of the Primary Document. Affidavits, declarations, certifications, and memoranda are also considered part of the Primary Document, and are not considered attachment(s), unless the entire PDF would exceed 50,000 KB (50 MB). The certificate of service filed with the document showing service on interested parties must always be the last page of the Primary Document. You may want to consult your IT resource about the best way to combine multiple PDFs.
ECF has a report that can be used to reconcile credit card charges for filing fees. On the blue menu bar in ECF, click on Utilities/Internet Payment History. Type in the desired date range. The report will list all payments that have been made for filing fees either using the credit card module in ECF or by making a payment at the Clerk’s Office. If you want to import this information into a spread sheet or database, use the Internet Payment History Raw Data report. Instructions are available on the screen where you enter in the date range.
To darken the data on a fillable pdf (e.g., Order Confirming Chapter 13 Plan) before printing it in paper, click "Print". When the Print box displays, click the "Advanced" button at the bottom. When the Advanced Print Setup screen displays, click the box to check "Print as image" and verify the dpi is at least 300, which should be sufficient to darken the print. Then click "OK" twice to print.