What It Means to Be a Public Official
Notaries are public officials who are screened and appointed by the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories to serve the public as trusted impartial witnesses in a variety of fraud-deterrent tasks.
What exactly does it mean for a Notary to be a public official?
First, it means that the Notary’s powers are limited to the geographic boundaries of the appointing jurisdiction and to the term of office stipulated in the appointment or commission, which may vary from 2 to 10 years.
Second, it means that Notaries must keep the promise they made in their public oath to obey the law. In performing notarial acts, Notaries must always give precedence to the requirements of law over any other consideration — even the dictates or expectations of an employer, client, friend or family member. Law in all jurisdictions requires the document signer to appear in person before the Notary at the time of notarization. Thus, notarization may never be based on a telephone call or email, on the Notary’s mere familiarity with a signature, or on the informal vouching of a third party — practices that are open invitations to fraud.
Third, it means that Notaries must be impartial and neither favor nor discriminate against any person or group for other than lawful reasons. Thus, a Notary must never refuse to serve, or to discriminate in the quality of service offered, because of an individual’s race, nationality, religion, politics, sexual orientation or status as a non-customer.
Fourth, it means that as representatives of the state, Notaries must perform their official duties with an appropriate degree of respect and seriousness for the indispensable role they play in our legal system as a trusted, impartial and official third party.