CONSTITUTIONAL CORNER: Here’s how to become a notary public

Notaries public have long been relied upon to deter fraud. The notary process dates back to ancient Rome and continues to be a staple of personal, government and business transactions as a means to certify that the signatures are valid. Notarized documents are required for a wide range of legal filings and financial transactions. The proper performance of notarial duties is essential to the effective operations of government and commerce. As a notary, you are exercising the sovereign authority delegated to you by the state of Georgia.

Why do we need notaries?

• To deter document fraud.

• To ensure the integrity and proper execution of document transactions, by verifying the identity, comprehension and intent of document signers.

• To administer oaths/affirmations and take acknowledgements

Individuals who have been commissioned as a notary accept a measure of responsibility for each notarial act. There is a common misconception that one of those responsibilities is to verify the validity of the document. In reality, the notary is not responsible for verifying document validity, but rather the identity of the signer. A responsible notary carries out this duty by requiring a government issued photo identification confirming the identity of the person and then witnessing that individual sign the document.

Notarization does not guarantee the truth or accuracy of statements in a document. The notary has no obligation to verify the content or indicate that you have knowledge of the contents. Notarization does not legalize or validate a document. A document with errors before it is notarized will still contains those errors afterward.

The failure of a notary to verify identity during a notarial act could result in their notary commission being revoked. In fact, this is the primary cause for notary revocations in Rockdale County. The Clerk of Courts has revoked notary commissions when:

A. A document was notarized but the signature line for the signer was blank;

B. The notarized document was a copy of the original signed document;

C. The document was notarized after being signed by someone forging the signature of someone else.

The best way for a notary to protect their commission and responsibly fulfill their duties is to keep a journal of each notarial act. While this is not a legal requirement, it documents that a notary consistently verifies the signer’s identity each time they notarize a document. In doing so, they prevent themselves from becoming a party to fraud, and protect themselves from lawsuits that result from the misconduct of others.

The careless performance of notary duties could result in substantial losses to you, your employer and to those who rely upon your acts. To enhance competency, training is crucial. While it is not legally required, it is highly recommended. It protects the notary from liability and protects the public from notary errors and omissions. The Clerk of Courts Office offers free notary public training on a recurring basis.

Attending that training will enable you to perform your notary public duties with confidence and with skill. Register now for Free Notary Training Friday March 22, 10:30 – noon and April, 17, 6 – 7:30 p.m. at JP Carr Center, 981 Taylor St. Conyers, Ga. To register, please call 770-278-7866 or email notary.training@rockdalecountyga.gov.

To become a notary public in Rockdale County an individual must be:

A. At least 18 years of age

B. A citizen or a legal resident of the U.S.

C. A legal resident of Rockdale County

D. Able to read and write the English language

E. Have an operating telephone number and provide it at the time of application

F. Provide a Sheriff’s Office Criminal Background Check less than 30 days old along with the application.

The Clerk of Superior Court may deny a commission or recommission to an applicant due to:

• The applicant’s criminal history

• Previous revocation, suspension or restriction of a notary commission in Georgia or another state

• A finding that the applicant engaged in the unlicensed practice of law

Any applicant who is denied a notary commission can receive a hearing before the Clerk of Superior Court. The Clerk appoints and commissions those qualified to act as a notary public for four-year terms. As a Rockdale County notary public, you are authorized to notarize documents in any county within the state of Georgia.

To begin the web-based application process go to www.gsccca.org and select File, Notary Application. After submitting the web form, print it out and deliver it to the Clerk’s Office. We will swear you in, and accept your payment of $42.00 by cash, money order, or business check written to the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court. We will be happy to answer any remaining questions you having during the process. Simply call 770-278-7861.

Ruth Wilson is clerk of courts for Rockdale County.

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