The Supreme Court recently revoked a lawyer’s notarial commission, and suspended him from the practice of law for one year, after he notarized an “Affidavit of Non-Tenancy” even though the signatory did not sign the same in his presence, i.e. he notarized an instrument without first determining the identity of the signatory.
The lawyer did not deny his infractions and pleaded good faith, but the Supreme Court said:
“To be sure, a notary public should not notarize a document unless the person who signed the same is the very same person who executed and personally appeared before him to attest to the contents and the truth of what are stated therein. Without the appearance of the person who actually executed the document in question, the notary public would be unable to verify the genuineness of the signature of the acknowledging party and to ascertain that the document is the party’s free act or deed.”
But in fairness, the general public the general public should read the first phrase of the Notarial Certificate, where the notary certifies that the affiant/signatory “subscribed and swore” to the instrument before him, clearly indicating the necessity of personal appearance.
In other words, the general public should understand that the process of notarization – the notarial ceremony – is not an empty, meaningless, and routinary act, but one invested with substantive public interest, as it converts a private document into a public instrument. Thus it should not be treated as a time-consuming act, or an inconvenience, that can be accomplished by the simple expedient of sending a pre-signed document to a notary public.