United States District Court - Northern District Court of California

Claudia Wilken, Chief Judge

Richard W. Wieking, Clerk of Court

E-filing Registration Instructions for Pro Se Litigants

If you are representing yourself in a legal matter (proceeding pro se  — "on one's own behalf"), you may be allowed to e-file. In order to do so, you must be sure you meet all the technical requirements for e-filing, then obtain approval of the judge assigned to your case, then complete the registration process for our court's ECF system and for PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). ECF allows you to submit documents to the Court electronically. PACER allows you to retrieve documents from the Court.

The instructions and FAQs on this page are designed to guide you through the process.

Step 1: Do you meet the technical requirements for efiling?

  1. A computer, the internet, and email on a daily basis so you can e-file your documents and receive notifications from the Court.
  2. A scanner to scan documents that are only in paper format (like exhibits).
  3. A printer/copier because each documents that you e-file will also need to be sent to the judge in hard copy (the judge’s copy is called the “chambers copy”).
  4. A word-processing program to create your documents.
  5. A .pdf reader and a .pdf writer, which enables you to convert word processing documents into .pdf format. Only .pdf documents are accepted for e-filing. Adobe Acrobat is the most common program used. The reader (Adobe Acrobat Reader) is free, but the writer is not. Some word processing programs come with a .pdf writer already installed. Macintosh OS X has a built-in .pdf writer.

When you can answer YES at step one, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Ask for Permission from the Judge

You must submit a motion for permission to e-file to the judge assigned to your case and wait for the judge to approve it. You may download and fill in the sample motion provided by the Legal Help Centers.

If the Judge DENIES your motion, you will not be able to e-file in your case.

If the Judge GRANTS your motion, proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Register with ECF 

Now register with ECF (the Court’s Electronic Case Filing system) to get a login and password.

Your registration process is different from that used by attorneys. You may NOT use the online registration tool on this website, but instead must download and complete the registration form and email it to the Court. There is no registration fee.

Download the form:

  • Pro Se ECF Registration (Word)
  • Pro Se ECF Registration (PDF)
  • The ECF Help Desk will process your registration within 3 days of receipt of your completed form.

    IMPORTANT: If you registered for ECF in a previous case, you should not do so again. To find out if you are already registered or to retrieve login/password information please visit our ECF Registration Status page. You do need to obtain the assigned judge's permission for each case. Once you have permission to e-file, email us at ecfreg@cand.uscourts.gov to request e-filing access in a new case.
     

    Step 4: Register with PACER

    You must have a PACER account in order to view the docket and retrieve documents (the ECF login will only allow you to submit documents).  You must have both an ECF and a PACER account in order to fully utilize the ECF system.

    Register online using the link on this page (choose registration > District & Bankruptcy Courts) or call the PACER Service Center at (800) 676-6856 to obtain a form by mail.

    If you provide your credit card information at the time of registration, you will receive an e-mail with instructions on how to retrieve your login information. If you do not provide your credit card information at the time of registration, you will receive login instructions by mail. Please allow two weeks for delivery.

    FAQs Regarding Pro Se E-Filing Registration:

    Can I e-file the motion to request to e-file?

    A. If you do not have an ECF login already, this would be impossible. Even if you already have an ECF login from a previous case, you must still file the motion on paper.
     

    Do I have to re-register if I am on a new case?

    A. No, but you must still file a motion asking the court to grant you permission to e-file on each new case. Until your motion is granted, you are not permitted to e-file.