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Rule

MS Administrative Rules (2021)

Notary Law Update: MS Administrative Rules (2021)

State: Mississippi

Summary:
The Mississippi Secretary of State has adopted final rules to implement House Bill 1156 of 2021 (Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts -- RULONA), including notarizations on electronic records.

Effective:  July 01, 2021

Chapter: N/A

Affects:
Amends Title 1, Part 5, Chapters 1-11 of and repeals all existing Notary rules in the Mississippi Administrative Code.

Changes:

General

  1. Defines terms.

Notary Commissions

  1. Clarifies that a nonresident who applies for a Notary commission must have employment or practice in Mississippi that is on an ongoing basis. Note: A rule revision issued July 19, 2021, repeals this rule. See the "Analysis," below.
  2. Authorizes the Secretary of State to request that a nonresident applicant for a Notary commission evidence employment or practice in Mississippi by written confirmation from the employer that a Notary commission is required for employment or practice.
  3. Clarifies that individuals who are employed by the legislative, executive, or judiciary branch of the United States government but who are neither elected nor appointed to office are eligible for appointment and commission as a Notary.
  4. Clarifies that if a Notary neither resides nor works in Mississippi, that Notary will be deemed to have resigned from office as of the date the residency ceases or employment within Mississippi terminates and that a Notary who resigns must notify the Secretary of State in writing or electronically within 30 calendar days of the effective date of the resignation. Note: A rule revision issued July 19, 2021, amends this rule to read that only a Notary who does not reside in Mississippi will be deemed to have resigned from office. See the "Analysis," below.
  5. Provides that applications must be typed or legibly written on forms provided by the Secretary of State.
  6. Provides the information, as specified, that must be included in an application for a Notary commission.
  7. Requires the applicant’s signature on a Notary commission application to match the applicant's name as provided on the application.
  8. Requires an applicant to use a legible handwritten signature which can be attributed to the applicant by anyone examining or authenticating the signature.
  9. Provides that if an applicant's preferred signature is not legible so that the name on the application cannot be discerned from the signature alone, the applicant must also legibly print his name immediately adjacent to his preferred signature.
  10. Clarifies that a signature is legible if the letters are distinct and easily readable and the Notary's full name may be determined by looking at the signature.
  11. Requires an applicant's commission name to contain their surname, and at least the initials of the applicant's first and middle name.
  12. Clarifies that when an application is submitted without a bond, the Secretary of State may provide the applicant a pre-commission document indicating the starting and ending dates for use in purchasing a bond.
  13. No longer requires the bond to be submitted within 60 days of the application date, but now states that the bond must be submitted before issuance of a commission.
  14. Provides that a current Notary may submit an application for reappointment 90 days prior to the expiration of the current commission but must submit the application at least 60 days prior to the expiration date of the current commission.
  15. Provides that the date of a new commission for a reapplying Notary will be the date immediately after the expiration date of the current commission.
  16. Clarifies that the term of a Notary’s commission expires on the expiration date of the Notary’s bond, which is no more than 4 years after the commission date.

Changes of Status

  1. Provides that whenever the Act and the rules refer to the name of a Notary, the reference is to the legal name of the Notary as it appears on the Notary's current commission and oath of office.
  2. Clarifies that for the purposes of the rules, the legal name on the Notary commission and oath of office must be proven by satisfactory evidence in accordance with Section 13 of the RULONA (relating to identification of an individual).
  3. Provides that unless proven otherwise, the name of a Notary consists of any one of the following: (a) A first personal name (first name), additional name or initial (middle name or initial), and surname (family or last name). (b) A first name and last name, omitting the middle name or middle initial. (c) A first initial, middle name, and last name.
  4. Clarifies that neither initials alone nor nicknames will be accepted on the application or as part of the signature required on a notarial act.
  5. Clarifies that the name of a Notary may include suffixes such as Junior, Senior, II, III, IV or any abbreviations thereof, but may not include prefixes, suffixes, or titles such as "Doctor," "Reverend," "Esquire," or any abbreviations thereof.
  6. Provides that a Notary must notify the Secretary of State in writing or electronically within 30 calendar days of any change in the information on file with the Secretary, stating the date of the change. Information includes the Notary’s: (a) legal name; (b) office address (includes place of employment or practice in Mississippi, if not a resident of Mississippi); (c) home address; (d) name of electronic notarization vendor; and (e) voluntary resignation.
  7. Provides that notice of a change in legal name on file with the Secretary of State must be on a form prescribed by the Secretary and accompanied by evidence of the name change (such as a marriage certificate, court order, or divorce decree).
  8. Provides that a notice of a change in legal name must be accompanied by a bond rider from the bonding company amending the Notary bond and the prescribed fee for a name change which provides a duplicate Notary certificate showing the new name.
  9. Provides that when the legal name of a Notary is changed, the Notary may continue to perform official acts in the name in which he was commissioned until the expiration of the term.

Standards of Practice

  1. Provides that the RULONA conflict of interest provision includes receiving an interest in the transaction or document that results in actual or potential gain or advantage, financial or otherwise, other than receiving a regular salary, hourly wage, or notarial fees, and further provides that regular salary or wage includes bonuses, provided the bonus is not related to or contingent upon the completion of a notarial act.
  2. Provides that a Notary or an applicant for appointment and commission as a Notary has a duty of candor to the Secretary of State in all matters relating to the appointment and commission of the Notary and the performance of notarial acts, including an application for appointment or reappointment, and any request for information made by the Secretary.
  3. Provides that in identifying a signer under Section 13(2)(a) of the RULONA, a Notary may rely upon any of the following: (a) a driver's license or nondriver identification card issued by a state of the United States, which is current and unexpired; (b) a passport or passport card issued by the United States Secretary of State which is current and unexpired; (c) a voter ID card issued by the State of Mississippi; (d) a nondriver identification card issued by a federally recognized Indian tribe or nation, which is current and unexpired; (e) a passport issued by a foreign government, which is current and unexpired, provided it uses letters, characters and a language that are read, written, and understood by the Notary; (f) a driver's license or nondriver identification card issued by a state or territory of Canada or Mexico, which is current and unexpired, provided it uses letters, characters and a language that are read, written, and understood by the Notary.
  4. Provides that in identifying a signer under Section 13(2)(b) of the RULONA, a Notary may rely upon any of the following: (a) an identification card issued by any branch of the United States armed forces; (b) an inmate identification card issued by the agency which has supervisory custody of the inmate; (c) an identification card issued by the United States Secretary of State of Homeland Security; (d) an identification card issued by a federally recognized Indian tribe or nation; (e) a state or state-related university identification card.
  5. Provides that for the purposes of Section 13(2)(b) of the RULONA, other forms of government identification must be current, contain the signature or photograph of the individual to be identified, and must be satisfactory to the Notary, and further provides that when there is a date of issuance on the other form of government identification specified in subsection (b)(3) of the rule, it must be a date prior to the notarial act.
  6. Provides that a Notary must be able to communicate directly with the individual for whom a notarial act is being performed in a language they both understand or indirectly through an interpreter who is physically present with the signer and Notary at the time of the notarization and communicates directly with the individual and the Notary in a language the interpreter understands.
  7. Provides that a certificate of notarial act must be worded and completed using the English language, but further provides that the certificate may be simultaneously worded and completed in another language that is read, written, and understood by the Notary and must be immediately adjacent to the English-language certificate, but the English-language certificate will prevail in the event of any conflict between the translations.
  8. Provides that a Notary may perform a notarial act on a document that is a translation of a document that is in a language that the Notary does not understand only if the person performing the translation signs a verification on oath or affirmation stating that the translation is accurate and complete, and further provides that a notarized translation and verification must be attached to the document and must comply with the Act and the administrative rules regarding certificate of notarial act.
  9. Prohibits a Notary from performing a notarial act with respect to a document which is designed to provide information within blank spaces, when either of the following circumstances exists: (a) the missing information has not been entered into a blank space, or (b) the signature of an individual signing the document is not present unless the individual is signing in the presence of the Notary.
  10. Clarifies that in reference to notarizing documents with blank spaces missing information does not include: (a) an empty space with "N/A" or a line drawn through it; or (b) additional signature lines designated for additional signers, if it is clear that the notarial act does not apply to the blank signature lines.
  11. Clarifies that in reference to notarizing documents with blank spaces, a Notary performing a notarial act on nomination petitions or nomination papers with remaining empty lines for signatures must mark a line through those blank spaces for signatures, or an "X" across the blank spaces for signatures, to prevent the later addition of signatures after the notarization.
  12. Provides that an employer, under an agreement with an employee who is, or seeks to become a Notary, may pay for the application or bond and the cost of the official stamp or other supplies required in connection with the appointment, commission, or performance of the duties of the Notary, and further provides that the agreement may also provide for the remission of fees collected by the Notary to the employer, for the increased compensation of the Notary for the amount of Notary fees collected, and for reimbursement of the costs of obtaining a commission should the employee or employer terminate the employment.
  13. Clarifies that in taking an acknowledgment, a may be signed in the Notary's presence or a document may be signed prior to the acknowledgment but may not be signed subsequent to an acknowledgment.
  14. Clarifies that if a document requiring an acknowledgment is signed prior to appearance before the Notary, the individual making the acknowledgment shall acknowledge that the signature on the document is his own voluntary act.
  15. Clarifies that in taking an acknowledgment, the Notary must compare the signature on the document to the signature of the individual on the identification presented.
  16. Clarifies that in administering an oath or affirmation: (a) the Notary must have personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of the identity of the individual taking the oath or affirmation; (b) an oath or affirmation may be verbal or in writing, and if in writing, the oath or affirmation shall be signed in the presence of the Notary; (c) the Notary must require the individual taking the oath or affirmation to voluntarily swear or affirm, under penalty of perjury, that the statements contained in the oath or affirmation are true, or that the individual will perform an act or duty faithfully and truthfully.
  17. Clarifies that in performing a verification on oath or affirmation, the document must be signed in the Notary’s presence and not after.
  18. Clarifies that in performing a verification on oath or affirmation, a Notary must compare the signature on the statement verified to the signature of the individual on the identification presented.
  19. Clarifies that in performing a verification on oath or affirmation, a Notary must administer an oath or affirmation to the individual making the statement and the individual must voluntarily swear or affirm, under penalty of perjury, that the statements contained in the document are true.
  20. Clarifies that in witnessing or attesting a signature, the document containing a signature that is being witnessed or attested must be signed in the Notary's presence and not after.
  21. Clarifies that in performing a signature witnessing, a Notary must compare the signature on the statement verified to the signature of the individual on the identification presented.
  22. Clarifies that the notarial act of witnessing or attesting a signature differs from an acknowledgment in that the party relying on the document may know for certain that the document was signed on the same date that the Notary affixed the official stamp and signature to the document.
  23. Clarifies that the notarial act of witnessing or attesting a signature differs from a verification on oath or affirmation in that the signer is merely signing the document, not swearing or affirming that the contents of the document are true.
  24. Clarifies that a Notary may perform a copy certification of a paper printout of an electronic record if the Notary is the custodian of an electronic record.
  25. Clarifies that in order to perform a copy certification of a paper printout of an electronic record the Notary must: (a) confirm that the electronic document contains an electronic signature that is capable of independent verification and renders any subsequent changes or modifications to the electronic document evident; (b) personally print or supervise the printing of the electronic document onto paper; and (c) not make any changes or modifications to the document other than attaching the certification.
  26. Clarifies that for a copy certification of a paper printout of an electronic record to be effective, the certification must be attached to the tangible copy of the electronic document and be substantially in the form required by MCA 89-3-1.
  27. Provides standards, as specified, for performing protests.
  28. A rule revision issued July 19, 2021, clarifies that a Mississippi Notary may use a driver's license that is current or expired by not more than 5 years to identify a principal. See the "Analysis," below.

Official Stamp

  1. Requires a Notary’s official stamp to show the following information clearly in the following order: (a) the words "State of Mississippi"; (b) the Notary's name as it appears on the commission; (c) the words "Notary Public"; (d) the name of the county in which the Notary maintains an office; (e) the Notary's current commission expiration date; (f) the Notary's commission identification number.
  2. Provides that words or terms in the official stamp may not be abbreviated, except for name suffixes, as provided in new Rule 5.01(d).
  3. Prohibits the use of the Mississippi state seal in the Notary’s official stamp.
  4. Authorizes existing Notaries who hold a commission on July 1, 2021, to use their existing seals until the expiration of the Notary’s commission.
  5. Does not prescribe the dimensions of the official stamp nor the shape of the stamp.
  6. Provides that a Notary may procure a stamping device only after receiving the Notary's commission from the Secretary of State and must provide a copy of the commission certificate to their chosen vendor as part of procuring the stamping device.
  7. Clarifies that the stamping device is the exclusive property of the Notary and shall not be surrendered to an employer upon termination of employment, regardless of whether the employer paid for the stamping device, or for the Notary's bond or appointment fees.
  8. Requires the Notary to always maintain custody and control of the stamping device during the duration of the Notary's commission, and that when not in use, the stamping device must be kept in a secure location, which includes in the Notary’s sole possession or in a locked location to which the Notary alone has access, and accessible only to the Notary.
  9. Prohibits a Notary from placing an imprint of the Notary's official stamp over any signature in a document to be notarized or over any writing in a notarial certificate.
  10. Prohibits a Notary from altering or defacing the official stamp. Note: A rule revision issued on July 19, 2021, clarifies that this rule does not apply when the Notary's commission is resigned, revoked, or expired, or upon the Notary's death or adjudication of incompetency. See the "Analysis," below.
  11. Prohibits a Notary from using the Notary's official stamp for any purpose other than to perform a notarial act.
  12. Prohibits a Notary from permitting any other person to use the Notary's official stamp for any purpose and from using any other Notary's official stamp instead of the Notary's own official stamp.
  13. Clarifies that a stamping device is not a non-inking embosser seal.
  14. Requires a Notary whose commission has been suspended or revoked to deliver the stamping device to the Secretary of State within 10 calendar days after notice of the suspension or revocation.
  15. Provides requirements, as specified, for notifying the Secretary of State within 10 days that the Notary’s stamping device was lost or stolen.
  16. Provides that a Notary may not obtain a replacement stamping device until they have properly notified the Secretary of State that the original was lost or stolen.
  17. Provides that if a Notary subsequently reacquires possession of a lost or stolen stamping device, the Notary must file with the Secretary of State a written statement of explanation of how the stamping device was recovered within 10 calendar days after the date the Notary reacquires possession of the stamping device.

Journal

  1. Requires the Notary’s journal to include the following information in any order: (a) the name of the Notary as it appears on the commission; (b) the Notary's commission number; (c) the Notary's commission expiration date; (d) the Notary's office address of record with the Secretary of State; (e) a statement that, in the event of the death of the Notary, the journal shall be delivered or mailed to the circuit clerk of the county of residence of the Notary; (f) the meaning of any not commonly abbreviated word or symbol used in recording a notarial act in the notarial journal; and (g) the signature of the Notary.
  2. Provides that if a Notary's name, commission expiration date, or address changes before the Notary ceases to use the notarial journal, the Notary must add the new information after the old information and the date which the information changed.
  3. Clarifies that each notarial act must be recorded as a separate entry in the journal.
  4. Authorizes the Notary to make optional journal entries, as specified, in the journal.
  5. Prohibits a Notary from recording in the journal any personal financial or identification information about the Notary's clients, such as complete Social Security numbers, complete drivers' license numbers, or complete account numbers, but clarifies that terminal numbers for these types of numbers, including the last four digits of a Social Security number, may be used to clarify which individual or account was involved.
  6. Defines “personal financial or identification information” as an individual's first name or first initial and last name in combination with and linked to any one or more of the following data elements when the data elements are not encrypted or redacted: (a) Social Security number; (b) driver's license number or a state identification card number issued instead of a driver's license; and (c) financial account number, credit or debit card number, in combination with any required security code, access code, or password that would permit access to an individual's financial account.
  7. Clarifies that “personal financial or identification information” does not include publicly available information that is lawfully made available to the general public from federal, state, or local government records.
  8. Provides that each notarial fee charged should correspond to the notarial act performed and further provides that if a fee is waived or not charged, the Notary must indicate this fact in the journal entry using notations such as "n/c," "0" (zero) or "—" (dash).
  9. Provides that clerical and administrative fees, if charged, must be separately itemized in the journal.
  10. Clarifies that for purpose of journal entries, “address” means the city and state only.
  11. Clarifies that a Notary who holds a commission on July 1, 2021, may continue to use the Notary’s journal until the expiration of the Notary’s commission.
  12. Provides that each page of a tangible journal must be consecutively numbered from the beginning to the end of the journal with page numbers that are preprinted, and that if a journal provides two pages on which to record the required information about the same notarial act, both pages may be numbered with the same number or each page may be numbered with a different number.
  13. Provides that if the journal is designed with numbered entry blocks, each line, or entry must be consecutively numbered from the beginning to the end of the page and preprinted and that if a line extends across two pages, the line must be numbered with the same number on both pages.
  14. Provides that a journal maintained in electronic format must be designed to prevent the insertion, removal, or substitution of an entry.
  15. Provides that a journal maintained in electronic format must be securely stored and recoverable in the event of a hardware or software malfunction.
  16. Provides that entries in an electronic journal must be available upon request by the Secretary of State in a PDF format.
  17. Provides that if a signature of a signer is in an electronic notarial journal, the signature must be: (a) attached to or logically associated with the electronic journal and (b) linked to the data in a manner so that any subsequent alterations to the electronic notarial journal entry are detectable and may invalidate the electronic notarial journal entry.
  18. Provides that a journal maintained in electronic format which is delivered to the circuit clerk of the county of residence of the Notary in compliance with the RULONA must be delivered in a format prescribed by the receiving circuit clerk.
  19. Requires a Notary to maintain custody and control of the journal at all times during their commission term.
  20. Requires Notaries to keep the journal in a secure location and accessible only to the Notary, which includes in the Notary's sole possession or in a locked location to which only the Notary has access.
  21. Provides requirements, as specified, for notifying the Secretary of State within 10 days that the Notary’s journal was lost or stolen.
  22. Provides that 10 years after the performance of the last notarial act chronicled in a tangible journal, the journal must be destroyed by shredding or other destruction that leaves any entry in the journal illegible.
  23. Provides that 10 years after the performance of the last notarial act chronicled in an electronic journal, the journal must be destroyed by deleting any remaining records pertaining to the electronic journal and deleting any remaining tamper-evident technology in the Notary's possession.
  24. Clarifies that the disposition rule shall not require a Notary to dispose of their notarial journal or journals if doing so would be in conflict with the law of another jurisdiction that requires a Notary to keep the journal for a longer period of time.
  25. Provides that the Notary or the Notary's personal representative shall provide access instructions to the Secretary of State for any electronic journal maintained or stored by the Notary, upon commission resignation, revocation, or expiration without renewal, or upon the death or adjudicated incompetence of the Notary.

Electronic Notarization

  1. Provides requirements, as specified, for a Notary qualifying to perform electronic notarizations.
  2. Provides that a Notary must use an electronic notarization system approved by the Secretary of State when performing an electronic notarization.
  3. Requires an electronic notarization system to (a) allow the principal and the Notary to affix electronic signatures, as defined in Rule 1.2(L), to electronic documents; (b) allow for a Notary to affix an electronic Notary seal, as defined in Rule 1.2(K), to electronic documents; (c) employ the use of a public key certificate, as defined in Rule 1.2(N), to identify the principal; and (d) make all electronic documents notarized using the electronic notarization system tamper-evident, as defined in Rule 1.2(S).
  4. Provides that before performing an electronic notarial act, the Notary shall take reasonable steps to ensure that the system meets the minimum requirements as prescribed in the rules and has not expired, been revoked, or been terminated by the system provider.
  5. Clarifies that the requirements of a notarial act performed with respect to a tangible document apply to an electronic document, including the personal appearance and identification of the individual appearing before the Notary, completion of a notarial certificate, use of an official stamp, and recording of the notarial act in the journal.
  6. Authorizes the Secretary of State to publish a list of approved electronic notarization system vendors on its website that meet the minimum criteria set forth in the rules, at the time of the Secretary of State's review of those systems published on its site.
  7. Clarifies that the Secretary of State does not endorse any electronic notarization system vendor and does not guarantee that the use of any electronic notarization system satisfies the minimum criteria set forth in the rules.

Fees for Notarial Acts

  1. Prescribes the maximum fees a Notary may charge as follows: (a) taking an acknowledgment: $10; (b) taking a verification upon oath or affirmation: $10; (c) administering an oath or affirmation without a signature: $10; (d) certifying depositions of witnesses: $10; (e) witnessing or attesting a signature: $10; and (f) certifying an electronic document: $5. Note: on June 21, 2021, a revised rule repealed this fee rule and adopted another making the maximum fee $5, consistent with MCA 25-34-9. The newly adopted rule clarifies the S5 maximum fee is per signature when taking an acknowledgment, performing a jurat, and witnessing or attesting a signature, and $5 per person when administering an oath or affirmation. The revised rule eliminated the $5 fee for certifying an electronic document. See the "Analysis," below.
  2. Clarifies that in addition to the maximum fees for a notarial act, a Notary may additionally charge a fee of up to $25 to perform a notarial act using an electronic notarization system. Note: A newly adopted rule on June 21, 2021, repeals this provision. See the "Analysis," below.
  3. Clarifies that a Notary need not charge a fee for performing a notarial act.

Prohibited Acts; Sanctions

  1. Clarifies that conviction of offenses involving a lack of honesty or elements of falsehood and fraud will be considered to be evidence of a lack of honesty, integrity, competence, or reliability to act as a Notary, regardless of the jurisdiction in which the crimes were committed.
  2. Clarifies that the Secretary of State will consider all convictions or comparable dispositions obtained in the courts of the United States, the State, or any other state, territory, possession, or country involving fraud, dishonesty, or deceit.
  3. Clarifies that any person who has been convicted of any felony offense or any misdemeanor offense involving fraud, dishonesty, or deceit within 10 years preceding the date of application for appointment is presumed ineligible for appointment as a Notary.
  4. Clarifies that the presumption of ineligibility for an appointment may be rebutted in extraordinary circumstances by a showing of clear and convincing evidence of the applicant's full rehabilitation and that it is the intent of this provision that overcoming this presumption will occur only infrequently and in truly exceptional circumstances.
  5. Clarifies that there is no presumption of ineligibility for conviction of a felony or an offense involving fraud, dishonesty, or deceit more than 10 years preceding the date of application for appointment, but the conviction and related facts may be considered in determining whether the applicant has the requisite honesty, integrity, competence, or reliability to act as a Notary.
  6. Clarifies that the 10-year period will be measured from the date of the conviction, rather than the date of the act which constituted the offense.
  7. Clarifies that for the purposes of this subchapter, "conviction" and "convicted of" include a conviction after a bench or jury trial, a guilty plea, a plea of nolo contendere, or a finding of not guilty due to insanity or of guilty but mentally ill.
  8. Requires a Notary to notify the Secretary of State of a conviction of any felony within thirty 30 calendar days of the disposition or on the next application for appointment and commission, whichever is sooner.
  9. Requires a Notary to notify the Secretary of State of disciplinary action in the nature of a final order taken against the Notary's commission by the commissioning authority of another state, territory, or country within thirty 30 calendar days of receiving notice of the disciplinary action or on the next application for appointment and commission, whichever is sooner.
  10. Requires a Notary to notify the Secretary of State of a finding against, or admission of liability by, the Notary in any criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding within thirty 30 calendar days of the conclusion of the legal proceeding or on the next application for appointment and commission, whichever is sooner.
  11. Requires a Notary to notify the Secretary of State of a finding by The Mississippi Bar or the courts of the State or the bar or courts of any other state or nation finding that the Notary has engaged in the unauthorized practice of law within thirty 30 calendar days of the conclusion of the proceeding or on the next application for appointment and commission, whichever is sooner.
  12. Lists the following offenses in performing notarial acts that constitute acts or omissions that demonstrate an individual lacks the honesty, integrity, competence, or reliability to act as a Notary: (a) notarizing his own signature or statement; (b) notarizing a spouse's signature or statement; (c) notarizing incomplete or blank documents; (d) postdating or predating notarial acts; (e) altering a document after it has been notarized; (f) issuing to the order of a state agency or the state a personal check without sufficient funds on deposit; (g) performing a notarial act within Mississippi when the person was not commissioned as a notary public or was otherwise not authorized to perform a notarial act; (h) performing a notarial act in another state under the authority of the Notary's Mississippi commission; (i) making a representation that the notary public has powers, qualifications, rights, or privileges that the notary does not have; (j) use of the term ''notario,'' ''notario publico,'' ''notario publica,'' or any non-English equivalent term in a manner which misrepresents the authority of the Notary; (k) engaging in the unauthorized practice of any regulated profession, including law; (l) endorsing or promoting a product, service, contest, or other offering by using the Notary’s title or official stamp; (m) failure to require an individual making a statement in or executing a signature on a document to appear personally; (n) failure to have personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of the identity of an individual appearing before the Notary; (o) executing a notarial certificate that contains a statement known to the Notary to be false; (p) using the Notary's official stamp for a purpose other than to perform a notarial act; and (q) using another Notary's stamping device to perform a notarial act.
  13. Provides the following factors that the Secretary of State will consider in taking disciplinary action against a Notary: (a) nature, number and severity of any acts, offenses, official misconduct, or crimes under consideration; (b) evidence pertaining to the honesty, credibility, truthfulness, and integrity of the applicant or Notary; (c) actual or potential monetary or other harm to the general public, group, individual or client; (d) history of complaints received by the Secretary of State; (e) prior disciplinary record or warning from the Secretary of State; (f) evidence in mitigation; (g) evidence in aggravation; (h) occupational, vocational, or professional license disciplinary record; (i) evidence of rehabilitation, such as reference letters and proof of class attendance; (j) criminal record; (k) reports from law enforcement agencies; (l) willfulness; and (m) negligence.
  14. Clarifies that the term “prominently” used in the RULONA provision requiring posting a prescribed notice in advertising means that the prescribed statement must be in at least 10-point type and must be displayed in an area open and accessible to the public at the place of performance of the notarial act.
  15. Clarifies procedures, as specified, for revoking, suspending, or imposing other remedial action against the commission of a Notary.

Complaints and Appeals

  1. Requires that complaints against a Notary for violation of the requirements of the administrative rules, the RULONA, or any other law or regulation shall be made in writing and under oath to the Secretary of State.
  2. Provides that complaints should state all pertinent facts and include a copy of the notarial certificate in question and the status of any pending litigation.
  3. Clarifies that complaints alleging violations of criminal statutes shall be made to the district attorney for the county in which the violation occurred.
  4. Clarifies that where civil or criminal litigation is pending or anticipated or has already commenced, the Secretary of State may, in its sole discretion, defer action on the complaint pending the outcome of the litigation, and clarifies further that in matters in which litigation is concluded, the Secretary of State may, in its sole discretion, decline to investigate any notary complaint in which the Secretary of State determines that the basis for the complaint could have been considered by a court.
  5. Authorizes the Secretary of State, in its sole discretion, to decline to investigate any Notary complaint which, on the face of the complaint, has no identifiable violation.
  6. Authorizes the Secretary of State, in its sole discretion, to decline to investigate any Notary complaint in which the Secretary of State believes or has reason to believe the complaint is an attempt to harass, mislead, or disrupt the normal course of business.
  7. Requires appeals to be addressed to the Business Services Division of the Secretary of State's Office.
  8. Requires an appeal to be in writing and under oath and include submission of copies of 3 pages from the Notary's journal including the pages before and after the entry of information surrounding the certificate in question.
  9. Clarifies that appeals will be on the record unless an oral hearing is requested.
  10. Provides that hearings are in the sole discretion of the Secretary of State's Office.
  11. Provides that if an oral hearing is granted, the hearing will be conducted informally with relaxed rules of evidence in accordance with these Rules.
  12. Requires the Notary to bring the original journal to any oral hearing for review by the hearing officer.
Analysis:

In 2020, Mississippi enacted the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA), including provisions for notarizing electronic records. The RULONA gave the Secretary of State rulemaking authority to implement the Act. These administrative rules are the result and take effect on July 1, 2021, the delayed effective date of the RULONA. The rules are comprehensive in scope, covering Notary commissions, standards for performing notarial acts, provisions for notarizing electronic records, complaints, appeals, and disciplinary actions. One notable change concerns the Notary’s seal or official stamp. It no longer must be circular in size; the new rules do not specify the shape nor size of the seal or official stamp. The order of informational elements in a Notary’s official stamp also has changed. Notaries with existing commissions may use their current circular seal until their commission expires.

Read the administrative rules.

On June 21, 2021, the Secretary of State published a revised rule affecting the maximum fees a Notary may charge. As noted under "Changes," above, the maximum fees in the rules were greater than the maximum fee authorized by MCA 25-34-9. The revised rule provides clarifications related to the $5 maximum fee the statute allows Notaries to charge. 

Read the revised administrative rule.

On July 19, 2021, the Secretary of State published a revised rule repealing a provision stating nonresidents could obtain a Notary commission and made other conforming changes as noted under "Changes" above. The revised rule also authorizes Mississippi Notaries to use a driver's license that is expired up to 5 years to identify a principal.

Read the revised rule.

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