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ECF Tips and Tricks

Tips and Tricks for Electronic Filing

U.S. District Court


  • Southern District Clerk's Office: (515) 284-6248


  • Mac and Windows users should use the Firefox browser.
  • Documents should be submitted prior to midnight on the due date.
  • When e-filing an event requiring a fee payment, CM/ECF will automatically take you to where you will submit payment online by credit card.
  • Verify that you are filing the correct PDF in the correct case before submitting.
  • BE AWARE OF THE DOCUMENT REDACTION REQUIREMENTS. Redact the items below or request to file under seal or obtain protective order.
    • Social security number to the last four digits.
    • Financial account numbers to the last four digits.
    • Date of birth to the year.
    • Names of minors to the initials.
    • Home addresses to the city and state.
  • If you continue to receive electronic notice of filings when terminated from the case, contact the Clerk’s Office.
  • To prevent screen display problems in CM/ECF, periodically clear your browser’s cache and history.

New Cases: If you open a new case and you have received a case number and encounter an error you are unable to correct yourself, do not arrow back or start over, please contact the Help Desk at 515-284-6248.  CM/ECF assigns a case number as soon as a party is added.  Starting over could result in two cases and two filing fees.

  • When opening a new case, do no select ‘Create Case’ until after adding all parties and their respective counsel.  Do not use all caps or add aliases to the Last/Business Name field.
  • When searching the attorney's name to add to the case, please highlight and select the name the court has in the system, if the attorney's contact information needs to be updated, you can send the information to:
  • A blank signed and sealed summons along with the corporate disclosure packet (if applicable) will be emailed to the counsel listed on the docket sheet only. The email will be sent after the case has been quality checked the next business by the clerk's office.  Do not use the Summons Issued event to send your unsigned and sealed summons to the court.
  • After your Summons and Complaint have been served, e-file it ‘Summons Returned Executed.’ The Summons should be the first page of this document, with the rest of the information on the subsequent pages.  This will set the Answer due date in the system.
  • When e-filing an event requiring a fee payment, CM/ECF will automatically take you to where you will submit payment online by credit card.  Once you enter payment information, DO NOT back up – doing so will cancel the event and result in a double charge when you re-enter the event.
  • When entering your first filing in a case, you’ll be prompted to create an attorney/party association.  Be sure to check the box in front of your client’s name.  Do not uncheck the ‘notice’ box after your client’s name.
  • DO NOT submit discovery materials, including Initial Disclosures per Local Rule 26(f).
  • When opening a new case electronically, the Southern District does not require filing of the Civil Cover Sheet (JS-44).  However, you will be prompted for that information as you open the case.  We recommend that you have a completed copy with you during case opening for the appropriate information.  The Northern District does require the JS-44 be filed as an attachment to the Complaint.
  • A Certificate of Service is required on all documents.  It can be printed on the last page of your document.  If you fail to include it, you can file it as an ‘Errata’ and link it to the appropriate document.
  • Magistrate Cases:  Once a defendant is indicted, all subsequent filings must be filed in the criminal case.


  • Determine the size of your document before you begin. If you are using Adobe Acrobat, use Ctrl+D for a document summary. Any document over 35 MB must be split into properly labeled parts. There is no page limit, but the judges must receive a bound working copy of any pleading over 100 pages. (See LR10.c.3)  PLEASE send the paper copy to the division where the Judge is seated.
  • No civil filing may be filed under seal without court approval. When filing your Motion to File under Seal, DO NOT attach the pleading that you want sealed.  When the motion is granted, you will then file the sealed document.
  • Do not include personal identifiers on any document filed with the court, including exhibits.
  • Signatures are still required on all documents, either in digital formal or /s/ format.
  • Please check the image of your documents after scanning but before filing. Images may be crooked, too light or too dark.
  • Descriptions of attachments should be specific, accurate and simply stated; for example, “Exhibit 1, Affidavit of Jane Smith.”
  • A Stipulation MUST be signed by a representative from all respective parties.
  • Be sure to pick the correct CM/ECF event.  For example, using Certificate Service instead of Summons Return Executed will not set the Answer Due Deadline.
  • Motion for Overlength Brief.  You may attach the over length brief to this motion.  Do Not attach it to the Motion to which the brief relates, i.e., Motion for Summary Judgment.
  • If you forget to file an attachment with a pleading, you can file the attachment as an errata indicting what the attachment is and link it to the proper filing.