PA Supreme Court Opinion J-126-2004

Legal Case

State: Pennsylvania

Effective: June 22, 2004


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules that Pennsylvania Notaries who, as of July 1, 2003, had a current commission in effect are exempted from the new education requirement.


Sections 151 and 152 of Title 57 of the Pennsylvania Statutes.

  1. Rules that any Notary appointed on July 1, 2003, or before and whose Notary commission was in effect as of July 1, 2003, is permanently exempted from the new Notary education requirement when applying for reappointment.
  2. Clarifies that this exemption from the new education requirement does not apply to those who, as of July 1, 2003, had: (a) let their commissions expire and did not seek reappointment; (b) resigned their commissions and did not seek reappointment; (c) had their commissions revoked as a result of disciplinary action; or (d) received a letter of reappointment but failed for 45 days after the beginning of their terms to obtain a bond and have their bond, commission and oath recorded.

Because of vague and poorly drafted language in the Pennsylvania Notary Public Law that took effect July 1, 2003, a loophole was created that was exploited by a Notary applying for reappointment. Notary Connie Tritt legally challenged the Department of State’s contention that, as the holder of a commission that was in effect on July 1, 2003, she had to take the new three-hour Notary course in order to qualify for recommissioning. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling of June 22, 2004, confirmed Tritt’s challenge. However, officials in the Pennsylvania Department of State believe that the Supreme Court ruling betrays the intent of legislators who enacted the new Notary law. Indeed, Christal Pike-Nase, Assistant Counsel for the Department, has informed the NNA that her office will attempt to remedy and reverse the situation by introducing emergency legislation to take effect later this year. This proposed law would exempt no person applying or reapplying for a Notary commission from the education requirement. Interestingly, there were three dissents from the Supreme Court decision, including that of Chief Justice Cappy, who wrote:  “I believe the Legislature engrafted these new continuing educational requirements on the Act in order to ensure that our notaries are informed of the nature of their work and stay current with regard to any legal developments that would affect the discharge of their duties. In short, it desired that our notaries be competent. Contrary to the assertion of the majority, I cannot see how this legislative goal will be effectuated by interpreting the Act in such a way that essentially two classes of notaries are created: those who will complete continuing educational requirements, and presumably will be abreast of any changes regarding their duties, and those who will not. Such an interpretation will not logically advance the goal of the Legislature and, in my opinion, borders on the absurd.”

Read the Supreme Court opinion.