Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance

Electronic Filing and Case Access for People Without Lawyers

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

People who are not represented by lawyers can sign up for access to court systems that allow certain functions to be performed or set up online, including:

Information about each of these functions is provided below, along with some Frequently Asked Questions about these topics.

Online Access to Court Dockets and Documents

If you want to be able to access information about cases and to view documents filed in those cases online, you need to open an account with PACER (the “Public Access to Court Electronic Records” system).  Visit the PACER website (www.pacer.gov) or call the PACER Service Center at (800) 676-6856 to register for a new account.  If you experience any difficulties with your PACER login, contact the PACER Service Center.

Case information cannot be obtained over the phone from the Court.  PACER provides online access to case information for a fee of $0.10 per page, though the first $30 of charges per quarter per user are waived.  The Court also provides free access to PACER at public terminals in the Clerk’s Office at each of the Central District’s courthouses.

Electronic Service of Court Documents

If you have a PACER account, you can choose to look up information about a federal court case at any time.  However, you must search for it.  If you are a party to a case in the Central District of California and you want to sign up to receive automatic email notification whenever a new document is filed in your case, you can do so if you:

1.   Have one or more cases pending in the Central District of California;

2.   Are not represented by a lawyer; and

3.   Are not currently incarcerated.

You are not required to register for e-service—registration is optional.  If you choose not to register, your paper copies will be sent to you through the U.S. Mail, so you may not find out that the court has issued an order in your case as quickly as you would have if you had signed up for email notification.

Please note that if you do request electronic service of documents, you will no longer receive paper copies of court- or party-filed documents in any of your cases pending in the Central District of California.  You will receive notice of filings by email, with the ability to access the documents themselves online.  Please note that:

1.   If you do not download your document within 15 days of the date the email notice is sent to you, you will be charged for looking at the document.

2.   You will be able to access your document ONE TIME for free, but you must download or print the document the first time you view it. You will be charged for accessing the document a second time.

3.   You will NOT be able to file your documents electronically (unless you separately obtain permission to do so from the judge in a particular case).

4.   You will NOT be able to serve your documents via email to the opposing side.

5.   You MUST inform the Court immediately of any change in your email address.

To sign up for e-service in Central District cases, you first need to obtain a PACER account, as explained above.  You then need to link your PACER account to the Court’s electronic filing system (the Case Management/Electronic Filing, or CM/ECF, System).  You do not need to seek permission from the judge assigned to your case(s).  Simply click here and follow the instructions to link your account.

Electronic Filing of Court Documents

After making a first appearance in a case, a non-incarcerated pro se litigant (that is, someone who is a party to a court case but is not represented by a lawyer and is not currently in custody) may seek Court permission to file documents electronically (e-file).  (See Local Rule 5-4.1.1.)  In order to e-file, you must first demonstrate to the Court that you meet all the technical requirements necessary to access and use the Court’s online filing system.  Review and follow the steps below to gain access to the Court’s electronic filing system.

Step 1: Determine whether you meet the technical requirements for e-filing

To meet the criteria for e-filing documents, you must have:

  1. DAILY ACCESS to an e-mail account to receive notifications from the Court and notices from the e-filing system; and
  2. REGULAR ACCESS to the following:
  1. A computer with internet access.
  2. A scanner to convert documents that are only in paper format into electronic files (i.e., exhibits).
  3. A printer or copier to create required paper copies such as chambers copies.
  4. A word-processing program to create documents.
  5. A PDF reader and a PDF writer to convert word processing documents into PDF format, the only electronic format in which documents can be e-filed.

If you meet these requirements, proceed to Step 2 below.

Step 2:  Ask for permission from the judge

You must file an application for permission to e-file in your case and then wait for the judge to grant your application.  You are encouraged to use the Court’s template application form CV-05.  Click here to download the blank form.  You must file this application in paper.  If the judge denies your application, you will not be able to e-file in your case.  If the judge grants your application, proceed to Step 3 below.

Step 3:  Register with PACER

You must have a PACER account in order to view your case docket sheet and retrieve documents.    If you already have a PACER account, go to Step 4.  If you do not, visit the PACER website (www.pacer.gov) or call the PACER Service Center at (800) 676-6856 to register for a new account.

Step 4:  Activate Your E-Filing Privileges in the Court’s Filing System

Once the judge grants you permission to e-file, you must complete the Court’s online registration form to activate your e-filing privileges for that case in the Court’s filing system (the Case Management/Electronic Filing, or CM/ECF, System).  This must be done within five (5) days of receiving the order.  Click here to access the online form.

Step 5:  Review the Court’s Online Tutorials

Before attempting to e-file any documents in your case, you should take a moment to review the online instructions and tutorials provided on the Court’s website.  Tutorials can be accessed by clicking here.  Online tutorials were developed for attorneys; however, most of them are also applicable to pro se litigants who have been granted permission to file electronically.  Some screen shots in the tutorials may not match screen shots in the CM/ECF System exactly due to periodic software upgrades.  Please disregard any references to the “General Order” as the General Order pertaining to electronic filing has been replaced by Local Rule.

You should also visit the Court’s E-Filing page to review other relevant materials and FAQs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  Can I e-file a new complaint or notice of removal?

No, you may only e-file subsequent documents in your case after you have manually filed your complaint or notice of removal.

Q.  Can I e-file documents under seal?

No, you may only e-file regular, non-sealed documents.

Q.  What if I have a technical issue or problem during the e-filing process?

The Court’s CM/ECF Helpdesk is available by telephone or e-mail Monday – Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The phone number is: (213) 894-0242

The email address is ecf-helpdesk@cacd.uscourts.gov (link sends e-mail)

Q.  If I have multiple cases, do I need to apply to e-file in each case?

Yes, you must manually file an Application for Permission for Electronic Filing in each case in which you wish to e-file, then click here to activate your e-filing privileges after the application has been granted. 

Q.  Can I file documents for other people using my login and password?

No.  Your e-filing privileges are granted to you and you alone.  You can only e-file your own documents in your own case(s).  Any attempt to file documents for other parties may result in your e-filing privileges being revoked by the Court.

Q.  Once I have been granted e-filing privileges, do I have to e-file all of my documents?

No, e-filing is not mandatory for parties that are not represented by attorneys.  Even though you have been granted access to e-file, you may still choose to file documents at the Civil Intake filing window or by mail.

Q.  Will I still receive paper copies of documents filed in my case?

No.  By registering to e-file you have agreed to receive electronic service of documents by e-mail.

Q.  Do I have to provide a paper copy of my filing to the judge?

Yes, unless otherwise ordered by the assigned judge.  One mandatory chambers copy of every electronically filed document must be delivered to the chambers of the assigned judge, or designated location, no later than 12:00 noon on the following business day.  See L.R. 5-4.5.