The National Association of Court Administrators estimates that all courts in the U.S. will be paperless by the year 2025. States are implementing electronic case filing (ECF) systems at seemingly breakneck speeds, with Texas being the most recent –and largest- state to incorporate mandatory efiling.
Federal courts utilize the federal case management and electronic case filing system known as CM/ECF, with which most legal practitioners are familiar. The convenience of being able to upload case files from anywhere, and at any time, is of tremendous benefit to legal professionals. But the concept of “at any time” in relation to the federal ECF has led to some confusion around electronic filing deadlines. The following will hopefully clarify some common misconceptions.
CM/ECF 11:59 Deadline
The 11:59 ECF deadline applies to all federal courts in the system, including all federal circuit courts of appeal. Any filings electronically transmitted to the ECF system by 11:59 p.m. will be deemed as filed on that calendar day. Filings after 11:59 are deemed as filed the next calendar day.
Clarification To qualify, your filing must be completely transmitted to the court’s ECF system by or before 11:59!
Clarification The 11:59 time does not, in and of itself, guarantee timeliness, for two main reasons. (1) Timely filed often incorporates compliance rules. And, (2) 11:59 is merely a cut-off time when the backend of the ECF system will timestamp any transactional filing.
As an example, if you are filing your opening brief to the 2nd Circuit’s ECF system, all pdf pages of all documents required by the Court must be transmitted by or before the 11:59 deadline, including any exhibits and/or addendum to be attached.
Time Computing –Appellate ECF “Last Day”
Practitioners should also be aware of how their circuit court of appeals defines the last day for time computing any deadline.
Any procedural rules containing the term last day (ex: “On or before the last day for appellee’s reply brief…”) will normally mean the last day ends “For electronic filing in the court of appeals, at midnight in the time zone of the circuit clerk’s principal office” [FRAP R.26.4-B].
CM/ECF Pro Tips
Remember that your electronic filings cannot exceed the system’s upload capacity, which varies by Court. Always check your file size against the Court’s specifications before attempting transmittal. If it is too large, you will need to break your pdf into 2 or more separate pdf files. The court may have a preferred method for doing this.
[Update]Certain circuits require that your efiling receive approval from the court before you can submit the paper copies. They are:
>>The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, the 3rd Circuit, the 5th Circuit, the 7th Circuit, the 8th Circuit, the 9th Circuit, and the D.C. and Federal Circuits.<<
Other than file size, another common reason an e-filing may not be approved is improper filing type designations and/or document descriptions. It is always best to ask for help if you are unsure about how to proceed with a specific filing.
Most federal circuit courts have a CM/ECF Help Desk available to take and answer questions in a timely manner.
You can also find help by contacting the Help Desk at Record Press: [firstname.lastname@example.org] or, you can contact me here.
About the Author: Natasha R. Monell, Esq, is Vice President of Appellate Management & Staff Counsel, and heads up our team of appellate advocates at Record Press, Inc., where her appellate filing expertise has been a highly sought after commodity for well over 15 years. Ms. Monell specializes in New York State Appellate Courts, all Federal Circuit Courts and United States Supreme Court filings and strategies that advance any litigation teams’ appeal to perfection. Lawline Featured Faculty Member