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 is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information. However, it is important to note that the information provided on this page is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. We do not claim to be attorneys and do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information provided. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. You should always seek the advice of a licensed attorney for any legal matters. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, losses, damages, 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 on any of the American Association of Notaries website pages. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their state’s notary authorities or attorneys if they have legal questions. 

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.