Electronic Filing and PDF
Electronic Filing is the process of sending a document from the registered user's computer to the Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission's Electronic Case Filing system (ECF) will only accept documents in a portable document format (PDF). Although there are two types of PDF documents, electronically converted PDFs and scanned PDFs, electronically converted PDFs are preferable for filing using the ECF system.
Electronically converted PDFs are created from word processing documents (MS Word, WordPerfect, etc.) using Adobe Acrobat or similar software. They are text searchable and their file size is small.
Scanned PDFs are created from paper documents run through an optical scanner. Scanned PDF's are generally not searchable and have a larger file size.
1. When a case is commenced, individuals who intend to use the ECF system must register as filers of the ECF system prior to filing any pleadings electronically. Registration is accomplished by completing an ECF Registration Form, a copy of which is attached. Completed forms should be e-mailed to ECF@massmail.state.ma.us . You will not be registered until you receive a confirmation e-mail stating that your registration form was received.
2. Registration constitutes consent to service of all documents by electronic means.
B. Filing and Service of Case Opening Documents
Orders to Show Cause shall be filed in the traditional manner by delivery in person to the Legal Division of the State Ethics Commission, and shall also be provided in PDF format and sent via e-mail to ECF@massmail.state.ma.us.
C. Electronic Filing
1. Electronic transmission of a document to the ECF system, together with the transmission of a Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) from the Legal Division of the Ethics Commission, constitutes filing of the document.
2. A document filed electronically shall be deemed filed at the time and date stated on the Notice of Electronic Filing received from the Legal Division.
3. E-mailing or faxing a document to the Ethics Commission or to the assigned Commissioner does not constitute "filing" of the document. A document shall not be considered filed until the system generates an NEF.
4. All documents filed by electronic means must comply with technical standards, as stated herein or as established by the State Ethics Commission.
5. The Legal Division may discard PDF disks after they have been uploaded to the ECF system.
D. Service of Electronically Filed Documents
1. Whenever a pleading or other document is filed electronically, the ECF system will automatically generate and send an NEF to the filer. The filer shall retain a paper or digital copy of the NEF, which shall serve as the Ethics Commission's date-stamp and proof of filing.
2. Unless otherwise exempt, or otherwise ordered by the Hearing Officer, all pleadings and other papers must be served on all other ECF registered parties by electronic means by e-mailing documents in PDF form to those ECF registered parties. Any pleading or other paper served by electronic means must bear a certificate of service stating that the document has been filed and that it will be served electronically to all parties of record who have registered with the ECF system. All pleadings and other papers must be served on all parties who have not registered with the ECF system in the traditional manner. Any pleading or other paper served in the traditional manner must bear a certificate of service stating the manner in which the document has been filed.
3. Service by electronic means shall be treated the same as service by mail for the purpose of adding three (3) days to the prescribed period to respond.
Filing documents electronically does not in any way alter any filing deadlines. All electronic transmissions of documents must be completed prior to 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, in order to be considered timely filed that day. Where a specific time of day deadline is set by the Hearing Officer, the electronic filing must be completed by that time.
F. Special Filing Requirements and Exceptions
The following documents shall be filed only on paper or in their original form:
a. Sealed or impounded documents;
b. Pretrial hearing and trial exhibits; and
c. Medical records.
1. Attorneys. All electronically filed documents must include a signature block and must set forth the attorney's name, Bar number, address, telephone number and e-mail address. On the signature line below the signature block, the name of the attorney submitting the document must be preceded by a "/s/" and typed in the space where the signature would otherwise appear. For example:
/s/ Jane A. Smith
Jane A. Smith, BBO # 123456
THE LAW FIRM OF JANE A. SMITH
123 State Street
Cambridge, MA 02140
(617) 123 - 4567
2. Persons not represented by an attorney. All electronically filed documents must include a signature block and must set forth the individual's name. The individual should not include his/her mailing address, telephone number and/or e-mail address anywhere on the document to be electronically filed. The individual's mailing address, telephone number and e-mail address must be included in the text portion of the e-mail sent to the Ethics Commission to which the document to be electronically filed is attached. On the signature line below the signature block on the document to be electronically filed, "/s/" must be typed in the space where the signature would otherwise appear. For example:
/s/ John B. Doe
John B. Doe
3. Multiple Signatures. The filer of any document requiring more than one signature (such as stipulations, joint motions, and joint status reports) must list thereon all the names of other signatures by means of a " /s/ name of signatory" block for each. By submitting such a document, the filer certifies that each of the other signatories has expressly agreed to the form and substance of the document and that the filer has their actual authority to submit the document electronically. The filer shall retain any records evidencing this concurrence for future production, if necessary, until two (2) years after the expiration of the time for filing a timely appeal. A non-filing signatory or party who disputes the authenticity of an electronically filed document containing multiple signatures must file an objection to the document within seven (7) days of the date on the NEF.
4. Affidavits. Affidavits filed electronically shall contain a " /s/ name of signatory" block indicating that the paper document bears an original signature. The filer shall retain the original for future production, if necessary, for two (2) years after the expiration of the time for filing a timely appeal. Please note that affidavits should not contain the home addresses of any individuals.
H. Documents Not Filed Electronically
Sealed or Impounded Documents/Cases. At this time, the Ethics Commission will not permit the electronic filing of sealed documents. A party may electronically file a motion to file a document under seal. If the motion is granted, the assigned Hearing Officer will file an order authorizing the filing of the document under seal. The filer shall then deliver the document to the Ethics Commission for conventional filing under seal.
To address the privacy concerns created by the ECF system, the filer shall modify certain personal data identifiers in pleadings and other papers as follows:
1. Minors' names: Use of the minors' initials only;
2. Social security numbers: Use of the last four numbers only;
3. Dates of birth: Use of the year of birth only;
4. Financial account numbers: Identify the type of account and the financial institution, but use only the last four numbers of the account number;
5. Home addresses: Use of the city and state only.
It is not the responsibility of the Legal Division of the Ethics Commission to review each document to determine if the pleadings have been modified and are in the proper form.
J. Attachments to Filings and Exhibits (other than hearing exhibits)
1. Attachments to filings and exhibits must be filed in accordance with the ECF User Manual, unless otherwise ordered by the Hearing Officer.
2. A filer must submit as attachments only those excerpts of the referenced documents that are directly germane to the matter under consideration by the Ethics Commission. Excerpted material must be clearly and prominently identified as such. Users who file excerpts of documents do so without prejudice to their right to timely file additional excerpts or the complete document, as may be allowed by the Hearing Officer. Responding parties may timely file additional excerpts or the complete document that they believe are directly germane.
K. File Size Limitations and Conventional Filing of Documents
1. A filer must limit the size of the PDF file to no more than 2 megabytes. Documents significantly larger than 2 megabytes will be rejected by the ECF system. Filers should take into consideration that scanned images take up considerably more space on the system than PDF files containing electronically generated documents converted to PDF.
2. Because documents scanned in color or containing a graphic take much longer to upload, filers must configure their scanners to scan documents at 200 dpi and in black and white rather than in color. Documents appearing in color in their original form, such as color photographs, may be scanned in color and then attached to the main document and sent through the ECF system.
3. The filer is required to verify the readability of scanned documents before filing them electronically with the Ethics Commission.
4. Documents or exhibits submitted conventionally shall be served on other parties as if not subject to these procedures.
L. Orders and Judgments
- In cases where all parties have registered with ECF, the Hearing Officer and/or Legal Advisory may use electronic means to sign and issue orders.
- Any order signed electronically has the same force and effect as if the Hearing Officer had affixed his/her signature to a paper copy of the order and it had been entered on the docket conventionally.
M. Motions for Leave to File
In any case of an electronic filing in which a party seeks leave to file a document or to amend a document previously filed, the party must attach electronically to the motion seeking leave a copy of the document which the party proposes to file. That document must be marked "Proposed [document designation]." If leave to file the document is granted, the party proposing the document must then file the original of that document, indicating in the caption of the document that leave has been granted.
N. Submitting Redacted Documents
The parties may request or the Ethics Commission may require the submission of redacted documents which have sensitive or confidential information removed from them. When filing the document electronically, two versions of the document must be submitted: (1) a redacted version, and (2) the original un-redacted version. Thus, the filer will be required to attach one PDF document of the original document and also attach a second PDF document of the redacted version. The redacted version shall be labeled or stamped "redacted" on the first page of the document.
O. Submitting Proposed Order
Proposed orders may be submitted electronically in PDF. All proposed orders must be either attached as an exhibit to a motion or stipulation or contained within the body of a stipulation. The Ethics Commission may request proposed orders in Microsoft Word format by submission to the Legal Advisor on a disk or by e-mail.
- Proceedings of the Commission. A transcript of a proceeding of this Commission shall be filed in the traditional manner by the court reporter. The transcript will be maintained in the case file.
- Transcripts from other Courts. All other transcripts shall be filed electronically in PDF, if so available, otherwise on paper.
- Depositions. Transcripts of depositions, when required to be filed shall be filed electronically using ECF or on a compact disk in PDF, if so available, otherwise on paper.
Q. Correcting ECF Filed Documents
In the event of an erroneously filed document, or a document filed containing non-substantive errors, as soon as possible after the error is discovered, the filer should contact the Legal Advisor via telephone. The filer will be advised if the document needs to be refiled. Please note, in the event that you erroneously file a document you should not re-send the document, rather you should contact the Legal Advisor via telephone and await instructions regarding how to proceed. It is within the Hearing Officer's discretion to permit the filing party to submit changes and/or corrections to any document previously filed. Failure of a party to promptly notify the Legal Advisor of any changes and/or corrections to a previously filed document may result in the Hearing Officer's refusal to accept the amended document.
R. Technical Failures
- A filer whose filing is made untimely as the result of a technical failure of the ECF system may seek appropriate relief from the Commission.
- Problems on the filer's end, such as telephone line problems, problems with the filer's Internet Service Provider (ISP), or hardware or software problems, will not constitute a technical failure under these procedures nor excuse an untimely filing. A filer who cannot file a document electronically because of a problem on the filer's end must file the document conventionally with the document in PDF format on a compact disk, or contact the Legal Advisor for permission to otherwise submit the document. Since the Legal Division shall only be available during normal business hours, filers are strongly urged to electronically file any documents due on a given day during normal business hours. Please be advised that you will receive a confirmation NEF e-mail from the Legal Division when the Legal Division has received your document. If you do not receive an NEF e-mail response indicating that your document has been received and filed within two hours of submitting the document, please contact the Legal Advisor for further instructions. When filing documents electronically you are strongly urged to electronically file any documents due on a given day before 12:00 p.m. on the day the document is due in order to allow ample time to correct any technical difficulties.
S. Parties Not Represented by an Attorney
Parties not represented by an attorney may register with the ECF or may file (and serve) all pleadings and other documents on paper.
ECF Registration Form
Name of Respondent:______________________________________________________
Respondent's Attorney: Name:______________________________
I hereby acknowledge that I have read the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission Electronic Case Filing Administrative Procedures Manual, and I agree to the terms, conditions and procedures therein.
Respondent Signature (if not represented by attorney) Date
Attorney Name (printed) Date
Sample Notice of Electronic Filing
Below is a sample Notice of Electronic Filing "NEF." Upon submitting a document for electronic filing through the ECF system, you will receive a NEF. If you do not receive an NEF within two hours of submitting a document to the ECF system, please contact the Legal Advisor for further instructions, do not simply resend the document.
This is a Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF). The ECF system has received your document. You are required to retain a paper or digital copy of this NEF for your records, which shall serve as the Ethics Commission's date-stamp and proof of filing. Thank you for using the Electronic Case Filing (ECF) system.