Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Authority of a Notary Public

The August 14, 2007 New York Law Journal has a very interesting article entitled "Value of a New York Notary Public" which discusses the history of notary publics in New York and elsewhere. The article also outlines what Notaries can and cannot do.  The article also points out that there is very little authority dealing with Notaries in New York and that is a bit surprising since they are so important to the court system.

As the article states:

  It was not until recently when confronted with some foul play in an affidavit submitted to the court that I discovered the long history that notary publics have worldwide and their services provided since ancient Egypt. Such names dating back to that time and since have included Scribae (latin for scribes), Tabellions and Notarii (shorthand writers who preserved Christian martyr trials).

Notary publics play a vital role in our more modern societies as well. In the relatively early years of the United States notary publics provided legal services and advice due to the scarcity of lawyers, particularly in more rural areas. These practices still exist in other countries, however, the role of a notary in the United States and New York in particular has changed with time. Now, New York notaries who are not also lawyers are prohibited from giving legal advice, drafting legal documents and cannot solicit legal business for associated lawyers or share in any legal fee. 

To my surprise relatively little New York case law exists regarding notaries. Although we can be guided by some statutes and Attorney General Opinions, neither have, in my opinion, been updated in recent years to better reflect the importance of notaries - that is unless the Legislature is sending a message that the modern-day notary provides little value in New York.

If anyone is seeking to research legal information about Notaries in New York or elsewhere, this article is a good starting point.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

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I have been a Notary Public in Ohio since 1978. Have made quite a study of the office. Some time ago I discovered a Notary's certificate in the local county museum describing the taking of two slave girls across state lines in around 1803. Neat. My problem is how to make more income w/ the commission without signing agent nonsense. The Bar screams about Car Titles at
$2!!! More nonsense. I understand Florida allows $10, which is probably fairer. I always work for less for a good cause. Advertising costs are outrageous for the return.

Posted by: Michael W. Bradley | Sep 16, 2007 8:11:13 PM

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