4
Apr

Vermont Bar Association is paying attention to details

As I wrote on March 30, the Vermont Legislature is considering the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA). On a national level, this bill is recommended by the Uniform Law Commission and has been adopted, with some variations, by several other states.

The bill is currently in the Senate Government Operations Committee. Among those providing input on the bill is the Vermont Bar Association. In reviewing the versions posted at the legislature's website, particularly this page, followed by some correspondence with Chris Winters (Deputy Secretary of State), I learned that a paragraph from the Uniform Law Commission's version has been altered for Vermont. The changes from the ULC version to the current Vermont draft are shown by means of strikeouts and underlines:

“Notarial act” means an act, whether performed with respect to a tangible or electronic record, that a notarial officer notary public may perform under the law of this state. The term includes taking an acknowledgment, administering an oath or affirmation, taking a verification on oath or affirmation, witnessing or attesting a signature, certifying or attesting a copy,</del and noting a protest of a negotiable instrument.

(B) “Notarial act” does not include a corporate officer attesting to
another corporate officer’s signature in the ordinary course of the corporation’s
business.

(C) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require the use of a
notary public to witness a signature that is allowed by law to be witnessed by
an individual who is not a notary public.

The changes related to attesting a signature were made because the VBA is worried that if an ordinary person were to witness a signature as a private person, it might be considered an improper notarial act, which is not the intent of the bill, neither here nor in other states. I'm inclined to think this is a stretch. How many clubs have new members take an "oath", which is not administered buy a government official, upon joining? How many of the people administering these "oaths" have been prosecuted for performing an illegal notarization? What about notaries of the Catholic Church, who witness papers related to church operations, and never pretend they have any government sanction?

The Senate Government Operations committee has also deleted the power of a notary to certify a copy of a record. Getting a copy certified by a notary isn't a terribly wise course of action anyway, because the notary is seldom in a position to know if the record being copied is authentic. But the RULONA doesn't list this as an optional power, so someone who things this supposedly uniform law is actually uniform is in for a rude surprise.

 

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