Monday, November 2, 2015

Word of the Month for November 2015: Notary Public

Failure on so many levels
Most times when people come into my library I am able to keep a poker face.  Most times.  Other times, the best I can do is stifle a snicker whilst listening to some of these reference questions.  Such was the case when a person of interest came into our library.

Seems person of interest had a neighbor who needed to borrow some money.  Seems person of interest was a little suspicious of neighbor and insisted that the note/contract be notarized.  Seems person of interest only knew about notaries because they had heard the term on NCIS and it sounded important.  So, person of interest got a family member (not an official notary) to witness the contract between person of interest and neighbor. Months later when the note was due and owing, neighbor claims person in interest cannot enforce the contract because family member was not a notary and so the contract is "null and void."  Yeah, I didn't understand that logic, either.  I just blog about these things.

Anyway, all of this brings us to our word of the month: NOTARY PUBLIC.  According to Black's Law Dictionary, a NOTARY PUBLIC is a person authorized by a state to administer oaths, certify documents, attest to the authenticity of signatures, and perform official acts in commercial matters, such as protesting negotiable instruments.  The problem in this case is that family member was an ordinary, average person - not someone authorized by the state to "notorize" the note.  As such, family member's signature was just as good as anyone elses (i.e. not much).

So, person was presented with two problems.  First, what is a notary and, second, is the contract still enforceable?

As to the first issue (what is a notary), I suggested person in interest take a look at:
As to the second issue (whether the contract between neighbor and person in interest was enforceable), I directed person to:
Soon enough, person in interest was hot on neighbor's trail devising their own version of swift justice.  If ever you find yourself in a bind and don't know what to do, just know that your friendly neighborhood law Librarian knows and knows where to point you to find what it is you don't know.  Yeah, we are that good.