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 for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary education, and securing their notary stamp and notary supplies. Every effort is made to provide accurate and complete information in the American Association of Notaries newsletters. However, we make no warrant, expressed or implied, and we do not represent, undertake, or guarantee that the information in the newsletter is correct, accurate, complete, or non-misleading. 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 notaries' best practices, federal laws and statutes, and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered this information from a variety of sources and do not warrant its accuracy. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, loss, damage, or expenses, howsoever arising, including, and without limitation, direct or indirect loss or consequential loss out of or in connection with the use of the information contained in the American Association of Notaries newsletters. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their states' notary authorities or attorneys in their state if they have legal questions. If a section of this disclaimer is determined by any court or other competent authority to be unlawful and/or unenforceable, the other sections of this disclaimer continue in effect.

Notary bonds and errors and omissions insurance policies provided by this insurance agency, American Association of Notaries, Inc., are underwritten by Western Surety Company, Universal Surety of America, or Surety Bonding Company of America, which are subsidiaries of CNA Surety.

Your choice regarding cookies on this site.

Our web site uses essential cookies to function and to optimize your site experience.
  • Click on the “Accept Optional Cookies” to agree that we may also use cookies to help us enhance site navigation and analyze performance and traffic on our website.
  • Click on the “Reject Optional Cookies” to disable all but essential cookies.
By visiting our website, you agree to our website Terms of Use and Cookie and Privacy Policy.