National Notary Bulletin

'Sovereign Citizens' Pose Perplexing Notarial Requests

Notaries and government officials across the nation are reporting a sharp increase in the number of requests for protests and other uncommon and unauthorized acts. The increase is due to efforts on the part of certain people to get out of paying taxes, mortgages and other debts and to assert immunity from government authority.

These individuals often are inspired by the so-called “Sovereign Citizens” or “Freemen” movements. The National Notary Association’s Hotline reports a six-fold spike in calls relating to these types of acts.

One of the more common acts being requested of Notaries is a protest — a largely antiquated notarial act involving an unpaid debt. They are rarely performed today due to their replacement by modern electronic financial systems.

Because protests and related documents, such as Certificates of Service, involve complex procedures and may require performing an act you may not be authorized to carry out, you may refuse to perform them, explaining that they require specialized training. Notaries should complete protests and related acts only after seeking the advice of a licensed attorney.

Many of these acts require Notaries to perform unauthorized acts or contain certificate wording that does not comply with the requirements in some states. Utah recently passed a law that forbids its state Notary regulator to authenticate the notarization on certain uncommon documents.

In general, Notaries should proceed carefully if presented with one of these requests. If the signer is requesting a lawful acknowledgment or jurat, you generally should comply.

If there are doubts that a requested act is lawful, the Notary is justified in refusing to proceed. In addition, the NNA recommends that if the Notary has knowledge or a clear, reasonable suspicion that the document is going to be used for an unlawful or improper purpose the Notary should refuse to notarize the document.

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