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Guidance

PA Oral Oath and Copy Certification Guidance

Notary Law Update: PA Oral Oath and Copy Certification Guidance

State: Pennsylvania

Summary:
The Pennsylvania Department of State has issued guidance relating to copy certifications and to oral oaths by phone and videoconference after the COVID-19 pandemic emergency expires on September 30, 2021.

Signed:  September 21, 2021

Effective:  September 21, 2021

Chapter: N/A

Affects:
All Notaries who administer oral oath and perform copy certifications.

Changes:
  1. Clarifies that the statutes requiring personal appearance and identification of the individual do not apply to an oral oath or affirmation.
  2. Clarifies that the statutes requiring personal appearance and identification of the individual also do not apply to a Notary who performs a certified copy of a record.
  3. Clarifies that Pennsylvania Notaries who are court reporters or stenographers and who are participating in criminal, civil, and administrative proceedings may continue to administer oaths and affirmations by phone or videoconference as part of those proceedings, without becoming a remote Notary or using approved remote technology to administer oral oaths and affirmations remotely.
  4. Clarifies that an example of an oral oath not requiring personal appearance would be a testimonial oath in legal proceedings, including depositions, arbitrations, and hearings that occur as part of any criminal, civil, and administrative legal proceeding.
  5. Clarifies that an example of a written oath requiring personal appearance would be the Notary Public oath of office which is taken by the Notary before entering the duties of the Notary office, reduced to writing and signed on the bond form recorded with the recorder of deeds office.
  6. Clarifies that a Notary who performs an oral oath without personal appearance or identification of the individual must continue to complete a journal entry for the notarization. (Note: although the guidance does not reaffirm that a Notary must complete a journal entry for a certified copy, the statute clearly requires this.)
Analysis:

On March 20, 2020, the Department of State issued a waiver that authorized the suspension of the physical presence rule for the administrative of oaths and affirmations by phone and videoconference during the COVID-19 pandemic. This waiver is now set to expire on September 30, 2021. After this waiver was issued, on October 29, 2020, Pennsylvania enacted Act No. 97 (House Bill 2370) that authorized Notaries to perform notarial acts for remotely located individuals. The Department’s guidance makes clear that 57 Pa.C.S. 306, the personal appearance statute, speaks only to records on which an oath may be administered. And, that 57 Pa.C.S. 305, which requires identification of the individual for certain notarial acts, does not apply to an oral oath or copy certification. If a Notary will be administering an oath in connection with a record (for example, on a sworn affidavit), then the Notary must notify the Department of State that they will be performing notarial acts with respect to remotely located individuals and follow the rules outlined in statute for performing these remote notarizations. However, if a Notary who is a court reporter or stenographer administers an oral oath without a connection to a record or document, the Department’s guidance clarifies that even with the temporary waiver expiring on September 30, 2020, these Notaries may continue to administer oral oaths for use in legal proceedings by phone and videoconference without notifying the Department or following the rules for remote notarization because these oaths are outside the scope of 57 Pa.C.S. 306 and 306.1. The Department also clarifies that what is true of an oral oath applies also to the notarial act of copy certification. No personal appearance or identification of the requester of the copy certification is required.

Read the Department of State’s guidance.

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