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Guiding Principle I Of The Notary Public Code Of Professional Responsibility Of 2020

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This article begins a ten-part series introducing the Guiding Principles of The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility of 2020. You'll get the most from the series by downloading the Code from the NNA’s website and reading the standards, illustrations, resolutions, and commentary sections organized under each Principle.

I am a baseball fan. The part of a baseball game I love most is when the leadoff batter steps to the plate in the first inning. A leadoff batter can set the tone for the entire game. Get on base, ignite a rally, and put your team on the scoreboard first. Statistics hold that the team that scores first usually wins.

Guiding Principle I hits leadoff and sets the tone for the entire Code. It reads, “The Notary shall serve all of the public in an honest, fair, and impartial manner.”

Like the name “leadoff batter,” “Notary Public” describes who Notaries are and what they do. Two key words in Guiding Principle I, serve and public, underscore the Notary’s primary role as a public servant. Notaries hold a public office that is identified every time they sign a certificate of notarial act and affix their official seals, which often contain the insignia or coat of arms of the commissioning jurisdiction. Notaries serve the public by performing official witnessing acts on documents that affect all of life, law, and commerce.

The words honest, fair, and impartial in Guiding Principle I emphasize how Notaries are to carry out their role.

The rest of Guiding Principle I is a running commentary on this guiding principle. Articles A and B help Notaries decide when they may refuse to notarize and charge fees, and prohibit Notaries from practicing unfair discrimination against others while doing so. Article C promotes the appropriate professional conduct for a Notary who holds a public office. Article D expects Notaries to apply this same professionalism when advertising and representing notarial services to the public.

Article E describes two practical limitations that could impair a Notary from adequately serving the public — a physical impairment or a lack of knowledge in how to perform a specialized or uncommon notarial act. And the final standard of Article E makes the point that since as public officials Notaries are accountable to their commissioning authority, they must self-report any changes of information or circumstances that would impair their qualifications to continue in the notarial office.

In conclusion, Guiding Principle I emphases the honest and fairness with which Notaries must always act towards the public. Our next piece — covering Guiding Principle II — will address the Notary’s impartiality.

Bill Anderson is the NNA’s Vice President of Government Affairs and Drafting Coordinator for The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility of 2020.

1 Comment

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Diane Chapman

16 Mar 2020

Thank you much for providing the link!!

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