Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts
Currently, there are about 150 U.S. district
and bankruptcy courts that utilize the CM/ECF system. In addition to
the obvious benefits of docketing and electronic filing, another
valuable feature of CM/ECF is electronic noticing. This is an
automated process whereby the text of new case docket entries, and
links to the associated documents, are distributed via e-mail. In
order to participate in electronic noticing in most courts, you
must first obtain an electronic case filing account.
The specific requirements for obtaining an ECF account vary from
court to court, but you must be admitted to practice in a court
before your ID and password will be issued. Some courts allow an
attorney to sign up online. They will activate the account within
hours. Others require mailing a hardcopy of the ECF
application. They may also require training.
Itís free to create an ECF account, and e-filing is quickly becoming mandatory in the
federal courts, so itís a good idea to sign up. After your account
is set up, youíll receive timely notices of new docket entries free
of charge, as well as one free look at documents for cases in which
you have appeared.
Although there are
different court policies and software releases of CM/ECF being used,
the following method should work for monitoring cases youíre not
Log in to the appropriate ECF court site and click
the upper right side of the blue bar that runs across the top of the
Under "Your Account," click "Maintain Your Account."*
Scroll down and click the button labeled
Check the box labeled "Send notices in these additional cases,"
and enter the case numbers for the cases you would like to monitor.
Click the button labeled "Return to
Scroll down and click the button labeled
You will need to click a "submit" button again, and then see a
summary of the options you have selected for your account.
(*If you donít see the "Your Account"
link, this means the court youíre practicing in does not allow you
to alter your account options online, and you must call them to make
any changes needed. Also, some courts will allow you to participate
in electronic noticing without having an e-filing account.)
To use a step-by-step computer training
module for electronic noticing, click "Setting Up Automatic E-mail",
on the PACER Service Centerís CM/ECF site:
U.S. Supreme, State, and Local Courts
The U.S. Supreme Court and many state and
local courts post free docket sheets online using various systems
built in-house or created by legal software companies. The method
for setting up a system to monitor these court cases is very simple.
Below are the steps needed, for example, to set up monitoring for a
U.S. Supreme Court docket.
First go to the
site and click "docket." Enter the case number or party name and
click the search button. Then select the link to the case, which
will display the docket in your browser.
Notice how the docket is displayed with its
own unique URL address. Using your mouse, highlight and copy the
URL. Youíll paste this later to set up the monitoring.
Also, create a direct link to the docket in your favorites,
bookmarks or in your Intranet site.
Next, go to a free Web page monitoring site
WatchThatPage. Follow the directions to create an account, and
then paste the docketís URL into the proper location for monitoring.
Thatís it! You have just created a free automated mechanism for
monitoring a U.S. Supreme Court case docket.
To be sure youíre alerted promptly with
updates, customize the frequency for the docket to be checked every
few hours, seven days a week. When a docket entry or other change is
made, the e-mail address you designate will receive notice with a
link to the docket. Youíll also receive an e-mail alert if the court
site is not working.
Although I have only used this monitoring
method for the U.S. Supreme Court, monitoring other courtsí case
docket sheets in this manner should work just as easily. As long as
the page where your docket sheet is located can be monitored, you
can conduct free, timely automated case monitoring. You should
experiment, and not rely solely on this strategy for case docket
monitoring, since each courtís public access policies, docketing
procedures and technologies are different.
Free Court Dockets
Below is a brief list of some of the courts
that offer free dockets online. You can probably monitor them using
the above-described method.
U.S. Tax Court
Arizona: Maricopa and Pima County Superior Courts.
California: Butte, Contra Costa, Glenn, San Diego, San
Francisco, San Joaquin, and Ventura County Superior Courts.
Connecticut: Superior Court civil cases.
Florida: Supreme Court and various Circuit Courts.
Georgia: Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
Illinois: Circuit Courts in many counties.
Kansas: Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Shawnee
County District Court.
Kentucky: Supreme Court.
Massachusetts: Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
Michigan: Grand Traverse and Macomb County Circuit
Mississippi: Supreme Court.
North Carolina: Supreme Court.
North Dakota: Supreme Court.
Ohio: Common Pleas and Municipal Courts in many counties.
Oklahoma: Appellate and District Courts.
Texas: District and County Courts in Brazoria, Comal,
Denton, El Paso, Grayson, Gregg, Lamar, Rockwall, Tom Green,
Williamson and other counties.
Washington: Pierce County Superior Court.
Wisconsin: Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Circuit
As federal, state and local courts continue
to improve their technology regarding online case information, itís
more important than ever to know where to look and how effectively
to monitor case dockets. There are always exceptions to rules and
procedures, but the two methods of docket monitoring I have
described should significantly help to increase the value,
timeliness and efficiency of your case monitoring efforts.
© 2005 Paul Bush all rights reserved.