Impartiality is crucial to ensure the integrity of notarized documents. Notarial acts are trusted because Notaries serve as unbiased, third-party witnesses who verify a signer’s identity and willingness. That’s why it is so important Notaries avoid even the appearance of bias when performing their duties, and why impartiality is the cornerstone of Guiding Principle II of The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility:
THE NOTARY SHALL ACT AS AN IMPARTIAL WITNESS AND NOT PROFIT OR GAIN FROM ANY DOCUMENT OR TRANSACTION REQUIRING A NOTARIAL ACT, APART FROM THE FEE ALLOWED BY STATUTE.
Rules governing Notary impartiality help protect the transaction from improper influence. For example, a Notary might be tempted to compromise ethics if asked to notarize a document that provided the Notary with some kind of financial or other benefit. It would be even more difficult, if not impossible, for a Notary to maintain impartiality if asked to notarize a document that specifically names the Notary in a transaction.
Even the appearance of impartiality can cause problems with a document. State laws do not always prohibit a Notary from notarizing a document for a spouse, parent or other close relative, but this doesn’t stop someone from calling the Notary’s impartiality into question if the document is challenged in court. That is why the Code urges Notaries to decline to notarize in any transaction that may call into question the Notary’s propriety — even if permitted by state law.
Trust in a Notary’s fairness in impartiality is a cornerstone of the notarial process — and that is why it is important that Notaries avoid even the appearance of potential self-interest when notarizing signatures on documents.
Editor’s Note: Each month during 2010, the Notary Bulletin will spotlight one guiding principle from The Notary Public Code Of Professional Responsibility, in random order, to help guide you when your state’s statutes, regulations and official directives fall short.
January 2010: Guiding Principle III — Personal Appearance