What Is a Notary Public?

Notaries public are considered public officers of the states in which they are appointed. Notaries are appointed by the State, owe allegiance to the State, and take an oath of office in which they swear to support, protect, and defend the constitution of the State and of the United States.

There are some jurisdictions where notaries, having been appointed by a judge or other court official, are considered officers of the court. There are yet other states that consider notaries to be nothing more than licensed professionals. Regardless of how your state’s laws view notaries, the ministerial duties of a notary are nearly uniform across the entire country.

A lesser-known fact is that notaries are considered ministerial officers and, in some cases, quasi-judicial officers.  A notary's duties are ministerial in nature in so much as the notary is not required to make determinations as to the legality of a document. Notaries are generally presented with a document that already has some sort of instructions printed on it instructing the notary how to proceed with the transaction in order to make the document acceptable for its intended purpose.

At the same time, a notary is often considered to be quasi-judicial. A quasi-judicial officer is an officer whose duties require discretion and making decisions but who is not granted judicial power under the laws of the State. Notaries are often required to exercise their own judgment. For example, a notary is required to determine the signer is not acting under duress. A notary is also required to determine that the identification presented to them is satisfactory. Administration of an oath can also be considered quasi-judicial.

Each state treats its notaries in slightly different ways. Although notaries are generally considered both ministerial and quasi-judicial officers, this might not be the case in your state. For this reason, consult your state's laws to determine what kind of officer notaries are considered to be.

Legal disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies but makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained . Information in this article is not intended as legal advice. We are not attorneys. We do not pretend to be attorneys. Though we will sometimes provide information regarding federal laws and statutes and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered the information from a variety of sources. We do not warrant the information gathered from those sources. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of an attorney in their state if they have legal questions about how to notarize.

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