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Special Notary Recordkeeping Rules That Impact Legal Professionals

A well-kept journal of notarial acts is essential evidence of a Notary’s proper conduct, and the best defense against accusations of negligence. But some states have special journal-keeping laws that differ from the norm and that legal professionals need to know about.

Arizona is unique in the U.S. in permitting Notaries working with legal documents to keep two different journals. In other states with requirements, Notaries may only keep a single, sequential journal record. Arizona law, however, makes a distinction between public notarial acts and notarizations affected by attorney-client privilege or that are confidential under federal or state law. Consequently, the state permits Notaries to keep separate journals — one for public acts and one for non-public acts..

While a journal of public acts stays in a Notary’s possession even if the Notary changes jobs, a journal containing only non-public records becomes the property of the employer when the Notary leaves that employment.

Texas has specific rules in place regarding Notary journals to protect the privacy of signers. Notaries in Texas are prohibited from recording any ID number that could identify the signer, grantor or maker of a document, such as a driver’s license number or a Social Security number. Notaries are permitted to record a number related to a signer’s address, however (such as a street number).

California authorizes a Notary to make certified copies of journal entries upon subpoena, court order or at the request of the Secretary of State but does not allow Notaries to certify copies of journal records for the general public. Notaries must provide non-certified photocopies of journal line item entries to any member of the public who presents a written request including the names of the involved parties, the type of document and the date of notarization.

Massachusetts exempts attorneys, counselors at law, paralegals, legal secretaries and other legal staff from keeping a notarial journal.

Illinois’ recordkeeping requirements are unusual. Every Notary in the state must create a record of any notarization involving documents of conveyance for residential real property in Cook County. This is part of a pilot program that lasts until June 30, 2013. This record is created as a separate sheet of paper rather than an entry in a bound, sequential journal, and it must include information about the notarization of such documents along with the thumbprints of any signers. In addition, Notaries are not permitted to keep the record. If the Notary works for or is an agent of a title insurance company or agent, financial institution or attorney, the record is kept by the employer. Otherwise, the Notary must deliver the record to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Also, all Notaries in Illinois are required to keep a record of all fees charged for notarial services provided.

If you notarize in one of these states, how have these laws affected you? Do you feel any changes are needed to your state’s journal laws? Join the conversation at the Legal Professional Section Discussion Group on LinkedIn(requires LinkedIn account).

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