This post deals with two facets of RULONA : 1) requirements with respect to a Notary’s journal (Footnote 1); and 2) potential sanctions against Notaries.
I. Notary Journals
57 PA C.S. Chapter 3 – the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA), effective October 26, 2017 – makes comprehensive changes to a wide range of Pennsylvania notarial rules, requirements and procedures. Journals are the exclusive property of the Notary and may not be given to an employer upon termination, although copies of journals may be left with an employer. The Notary is responsible for the safekeeping of all journals until death.
A. Journal Contents
A Notary journal must contain:
● the Notary’s name, commission number, commission expiration date and address of record with the Department of State;
● a statement to the effect that in the event of the death of the Notary, the journal will be mailed or sent to the Recorder of Deeds for the county in which the Notary last maintained an address within thirty (30) days of death (Footnote 2);
● a legend of any commonly used abbreviations or designations; and
● the Notary’s signature.
B. Journal Entries
According to a Pennsylvania Association of Notaries (PAN) report, “RULONA – What Changes for Current Pennsylvania Notaries,” journal entries are to be made at the time of notarization, in chronological order. Entries must include:
● date and time of the Notary act;
● description of the record and act;
● fee charged, if any;
● signor’s information, including name, city and state; and
● statement regarding the method of identification, credentials, including date of issue & expiration.
C. Electronic Journals
Journals may be kept in an electronic format that complies with the regulations of the Department of State. That format must be tamper evident. The utilization of a password, alone, is not sufficient safekeeping under these rules. Pennsylvania Department of State Regulation §167.34 – Format and Content of an Electronic Notary Journal – sets forth the requirements of an electronic journal.
An electronic Notary journal must:
● be designed to prevent the addition, deletion or substitution of entries;
● be securely stored;
● be maintained in an electronic format that is recoverable in the event of a hardware or software malfunction; and
● have entries available upon demand of the Department of State in .pdf format.
II. Sanctions on Notaries
As set forth in RULONA, the Department of State may deny, refuse to renew, revoke, suspend, reprimand or impose a condition on a commission as notary public for an act or omission which demonstrates that the individual lacks the honesty, integrity, competence or reliability to act as a Notary Public. Actionable acts or omissions include:
(1) Failure to comply with this chapter
(2) A fraudulent, dishonest or deceitful misstatement or omission in the application for a commission as a notary public submitted to the department
(3) Conviction of or acceptance of Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition by the applicant or notary public for a felony or an offense involving fraud, dishonesty or deceit
(4) A finding against or admission of liability by the applicant or notary public in a legal proceeding or disciplinary action based on the fraud, dishonesty or deceit of the applicant or notary public
(5) Failure by a notary public to discharge a duty required of a notary public, whether by this chapter, by regulation of the department or by Federal or State law
(6) Use of false or misleading advertising or representation by a notary public representing that the notary public has a duty, right or privilege that the notary public does not have
(7) Violation by a notary public of a regulation of the department regarding a notary public
(8) Denial, refusal to renew, revocation, suspension or conditioning of a notary public commission in another state
(9) Failure of a notary public to maintain a bond under section 321(d) (relating to appointment and commission as notary public; qualifications; no immunity or benefit).
Penalties for violations include: fines of up to $1,000 per infraction; revocation of Commission; and/or civil or criminal redress. The Department of State has the authority to issue subpoenas, under the jurisdiction of Commonwealth Court, to investigate alleged violations under RULONA.
Holding oneself out as a Notary or the use of a seal by someone other than the commissioned Notary are considered summary criminal offenses.
1) Prior to RULONA, these were known as registers.
2) Marc Aaronson, President of PAN, suggests the Notary leave instructions as to how to access and print a PDF version of the journal, per the Secretary’s requirement. (RULONA §319(g)). These instructions may be stored (handwritten, printed, etc.) somewhere accessible to the Notary’s heir or personal representative, along with the information the Notary would be required to record if the journal was on paper. (Proposed Regulations §167.31(a)(5))