By Christopher D. Caspary
Henry J. Heinz, American entrepreneur and businessman, once remarked that “to do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.” The designation of notary public has a long and distinguished history that dates back approximately 1500 years. Today, documents are notarized with regularity and presented or required in a variety of proceedings and applications. Though notarizations are commonplace, notarial guidelines can be complex and specific processes and procedures are statutorily mandated pursuant to R.C. 147.07 et seq. Sounds like we may need to play a little ketchup.
Becoming a Notary
For starters, attorneys are not automatically notaries. Instead, attorneys must be additionally appointed and commissioned by the state through an application process. Notably, the application process occurs at the county level. Attorneys must be officially commissioned prior to notarizing any document.
Seal & Register
Prior to notarizing any document, a notary “shall provide themselves with the seal of a notary public.” See R.C. 147.04. Specifically, the statute provides: The seal shall consist of the coat of arms of the state within a circle one inch in diameter and shall be surrounded by the words “notary public,” “notarial seal,” or words to that effect, the name of the notary public and the words “State of Ohio.” The seal may be of either a type that will stamp ink onto a document or one that will emboss it. the name of the notary public may, instead of appearing on the seal, be printed, typewritten or stamped in legible, printed letters near his signature on each document signed by him.
Acknowledgment vs. Jurat
the specific nature of the notarization depends upon the notary language that appears at the end of the document. An acknowledgment, which may contain language such as “the foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me,” allows an individual to sign outside the presence of the notary and then appear before the notary, confirm their signature, and have the document notarized. See R.C. 147.53.
Conversely, jurat language, which may contain language such as “sworn to and subscribed to before me,” requires that the notary certify that the document was signed in the notary’s presence, that the notary administered an oath or affirmation to the signer, and that the signer indeed swore to or affirmed the contents of the document. See Black’s Law Dictionary. Failing to administer the oath or affirmation when notarizing an affidavit is grounds for removal from the office of notary public. See R.C. 147.14. In either instance, the individual seeking to have a document notarized must appear before the notary.
Though notarizing a document is a relatively common action undertaken by a lawyer, taking the time to more fully understand the laws, expectations, and history of the notary public is a valuable endeavor. Perhaps nothing an attorney does could better fit into the life lesson set forth by Mr. Heinz, as effectively performing foundational tasks will allow the majority of an attorney’s energy and efforts to be focused on the finer points of the practice of law.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are not intended to serve as legal advice. Appropriate legal counseling or other professional consultation should be obtained prior to undertaking any course of action related to the topics explored by this article.
*This article originally appeared in Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal and has been republished by permission of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association.