Opening A New Civil Case In ECF
E-filing of new civil cases is now mandatory (except for sealed and miscellaneous cases, and those brought by unrepresented plaintiffs). The process of e-filing a new civil case includes opening the case, e-filing civil case initiating documents and paying the filing fee, all in a single CM/ECF transaction; the new process includes electronic issuance of summons via CM/ECF.
IMPORTANT: The ECF case opening procedures for the Northern District of California are different from those in other federal district courts. Please read the instructional information on this page and the on-screen instructions in ECF carefully before and during the case opening process.
- I. Case Opening Instructions & Training Resources
- II. Downloading Documents After A Judge Is Assigned
The court has prepared step-by-step training resources to assist e-filers with the case opening process, and, for a limited time, is offering in-person classes.
Or open and view the web version on your computer by clicking the full-screen button in the lower-right corner of the window below.
View the Powerpoint Presentation:
Filing a Complaint fully or partially under seal:
If you are seeking to have a complaint sealed in its entirety, you must first MANUALLY file a motion to file the case under seal along with your initiating documents. The General Duty Judge will rule on your motion, and if granted, the Intake staff will then assign your case. If the motion is denied the case is generally returned or filed as unsealed. Note that you cannot e-file in a case that is under seal; all subsequent filings will be handled manually until such time as the case is unsealed (if it ever is).
If you are seeking to have a complaint partially sealed, follow the steps in the guide for e-filing a new civil case and upload the redacted version of the complaint as your initial document. Once you've filed your redacted complaint, e-file an Administrative Motion to File Under Seal per our FAQ on filing on under seal:
After court staff have randomly assigned your case to a judge, you will receive a Notice of Electronic Filing informing you of the name of the assigned judge and whether that judge is a district judge or a magistrate judge.
Judge's Standing Orders. On the judges' index page on the court's website, locate your assigned judge and open his or her webpage. Review the information provided about your assigned judge and download and review the judge's standing orders.
You are required to serve the standing orders, together with the other documents listed below, on the defendants in the case.
- Information Page For Assigned Court Division. Print the “Filing Procedures” web page for the court division to which your case is assigned. You are required to serve this information on the defendants.
Additional Documents To Download/Print, Review And Serve:
- ECF Registration Information
- Notice Of A Lawsuit And Request To Waive Service Of A Summons (AO 398)(.pdf) | Word | WP
- Waiver of the Service of Summons (AO 399) (.pdf) | Word | WP
If Your Case Is Assigned To A District Judge...If Your Case Is Assigned To A Magistrate Judge...
- All Judges: