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CM/ECF FAQs: Attorney Civil Case Opening
How do I file a Notice of Removal?
Review the Attorney's Guide to Opening a Notice of Removal Civil Case for step-by-step filing instructions.
How can I open a civil case as a pro se (representing yourself)?
See the Pro Se Guide to Filing Lawsuit in Federal Court: Section Two.
I forgot to enter a party! How do I get my additional parties added?
You will have another opportunity to add parties when you file your initiating document. If you have already filed your initiating document and still need parties added, contact the Attorney Case Opening Help Desk for assistance.
How do I get a summons issued?
Download the summons form on the Court’s website and complete all required fields. Summonses can be filed as attachments to initiating documents – such as the Complaint or Notice of Removal – or separately at a later date using the Praecipe for a Summons event. A praecipe is not required if the Praecipe for a Summons event is used. If you are filing one summons, upload it as the Main Document. If you have multiple summonses, upload the first one as the Main Document and each additional summons as a separate Attachment. When filing summonses as Attachments, enter the party’s name in the Description field. Summonses should be filed as separate attachments and not combined into one PDF.
Summonses will be issued electronically by the court after staff review. You will receive a Notice of Electronic Filing of the issued summons(es) when posted on the docket. To retrieve the summons, use the document hyperlink in the Notice of Electronic Filing. If you need summonses issued immediately, please call (206) 370-8787.
Can cases still be filed over the counter or through mail and email?
For attorneys, only sealed cases can be filed over the counter. All other attorney filings must be made through CM/ECF (with the exception of miscellaneous cases).
For pro se filers, yes, you can file through the mail all case filings. Pro se filers can only file case opening documents through email, all other filings must be filed through the mail, in person, or through CM/ECF: for pro se filers that meet all requirements and are properly registered by the Court.
How do I determine if it is a Seattle or Tacoma jurisdiction?
The jurisdiction is determined by the county in which:
- defendants reside, or
- defendants have their principal places of business, or
- the claim arose.
Exception: In cases removed from state court, jurisdiction is determined by the county where the action is pending. Refer to LCR 3(e) for further information.
Counties in the Seattle division: Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom.
Counties in the Tacoma division: Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, Skamania, Thurston, and Wahkiakum.
How do I get a judge assigned to the case?
The judge is assigned to your case by Clerk’s Office staff after the case is opened. You will receive a Notice of Electronic Filing of the judge assignment.
Pay.gov is not working. Can I submit my filing fee a different way?
Call the Attorney Case Opening Help Desk to make a credit/debit card payment over the phone.
How do I pay my filing fee?
Filing fees are paid when you file your initiating document. For attorneys, you will be prompted in CM/ECF when you are filing your initiating document. For pro se filers, you must submit payment or submit a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauaperis (IFP) along with your case opening documents.
Filing fees may be paid with:
- Debit/Credit Card
- ACH (online bank withdrawal)
Can attorneys open their own criminal cases?
No, neither attorneys nor pro se filers can open criminal cases electronically.
How do I file a sealed case?
Sealed cases must be filed in person, this includes case opening and all subsequent filings. Sealed cases cannot be filed by mail or email and once filed, sealed cases cannot be accessed electronically.
What do I do if I open a case in error?
Contact the Attorney Case Opening Help Desk for assistance.
Can I open a case 24 hours a day?
Attorneys: Yes, CM/ECF is available 24 hours a day. An electronic document is considered filed when it is received by the CM/ECF system. The filing deadline is 11:59 PM Pacific Time for the current date of filing.
Pro Se Filers: Yes, pro se filers can submit case opening documents by email or mail. Documents are considered filed once court staff receive all required components to open a civil case. The filing deadline is 11:59 PM Pacific Time for the current date of filing.
Mail submissions should be sent to the proper jurisdictional Clerk's Office:
U.S. District Courthouse
700 Stewart Street, Suite 2310
Seattle, Washington 98101
Union Station Courthouse
1717 Pacific Ave, Room 3100
Tacoma, Washington 98402-3200
New case documents should be saved in .pdf format and emailed to the proper jurisdictional Clerk’s Office:
Do I have to open my civil case electronically?
It is mandatory for attorneys to open civil cases electronically (Exceptions: sealed and miscellaneous cases).
Pro se filers must file civil cases in person or via mail or email.