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Today's topic: Electronic Case Filing. If you're new to the Ninth Circuit, you need to acquaint yourself with ECF; it's not just encouraged, it's mandatory.
Do I really have to register? Yes. In the Ninth Circuit, ECF is mandatory for all attorneys and court reporters, unless you have been granted an exemption. Exemptions for attorney filers and court reporters will be granted for “good cause,” though the court declines to identify “good cause.” The court expects to grant few exemptions, so don’t get your hopes up. If you think you might qualify, you should complete and submit an exemption form. If you have not yet signed up for ECF, keep this in mind: the registration processing can take up to 10 business days, and you must register prior to entering your first filing. To avoid delays later, the court recommends registering as soon as possible.
I’m not yet admitted to appear before the Ninth Circuit. What do I do? You can register with ECF without being admitted to the Ninth Circuit Bar, but you should apply for admission when you register. After all, what’s the point of electronic filing capability if you can’t practice before the court?
I can’t even turn my computer on; how will I master ECF? The Ninth Circuit can help you learn to use ECF. In addition to online tutorials, the court offers free, in-person training on the first Tuesday of each month at 12 noon PST at San Francisco’s James R. Browning Courthouse. This session lasts for one hour, and has been approved by the State Bar of California for one hour of Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) credit.
What kinds of documents can I file through ECF? You can file nearly all pleadings and correspondence using ECF. In addition to the filings detailed in Circuit Rule 25-5, you can now submit electronic versions of original petitions. You can pay any required fees using your credit card.
When can I use ECF? Almost anytime. The exceptions are during routine or emergency maintenance. Unlike the courthouse, ECF does not close. As long as your filing is completed by 11:59 PM PST on a business day will be entered on the docket as of that date.
Speaking of routine maintenance, ECF will be unavailable from 1:00 am PDT on August 6, 2011 until 6:00 pm PDT on August 7, 2011 for a system upgrade, so plan to enjoy a filing-free weekend.