Pennsylvania laws on notaries public can be found in Title 57 of Pennsylvania Statutes. Pursuant to 57 P.S. § 148, the Secretary of the Commonwealth is authorized to appoint and commission, for a term of four years from the date of appointment, as many notaries public as, in the secretary’s judgment, the interest of the public may require, whose jurisdiction should be co-extensive with the boundaries of the Commonwealth.
57 P.S. § 149 provides that any person who is eighteen years of age or over and who resides or is employed within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and who is of good character, integrity and ability is eligible for the office of notary public. Further, any person who is a notary public and who resides outside the Commonwealth is deemed to have irrevocably appointed the Secretary of the Commonwealth as the person’s agent upon whom may be served any summons, subpoena, order or other process.
Pursuant to 57 P.S. § 150, the following persons are ineligible to hold the office of notary public:
- Any person holding any judicial office in this Commonwealth, except the office of justice of the peace, magistrate, or alderman.
- Every member of Congress, and any person, whether an officer, a subordinate officer, or agent, holding any office or appointment of profit or trust under the legislative, executive, or judiciary departments of the government of the U.S., to which a salary, fees or perquisites are attached.
57 P.S. § 151 provides that applications for appointment to the office of notary public should be made to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and should bear the endorsement of the Senator of the district in which the applicant resides or, if the applicant does not reside in this Commonwealth, the endorsement of the Senator of the district in which the applicant is employed.
Before issuing to any applicant a commission as notary public, the Secretary of the Commonwealth should be satisfied that the applicant is of good moral character and is familiar with the duties and responsibilities of a notary public. The application must contain no material misstatement or omission of fact and the applicant should not[i]:
- have been convicted of or pled guilty or nolo contendere to a felony or a lesser offense incompatible with the duties of a notary public during the five year period preceding the date of the application; or
- have had a prior notary public commission revoked by the Commonwealth or any other state during the five year period preceding the date of the application.
In the event of any change of address within the Commonwealth, notice in writing or electronically should be given to the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the recorder of deeds of the county of original appointment by a notary public within five days of such change[ii].
Every notary, upon appointment and prior to entering upon the duties of the office of notary public, should take and subscribe the constitutional oath of office, and should give a surety bond, payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in the amount of ten thousand dollars, which bond should, after being recorded, be approved by and filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth[iii].
The official signature of each notary public should be registered, in the Notary Register provided for such purpose in the prothonotary’s office of the county wherein the notary maintains an office, within forty-five days after appointment or reappointment, and in any county to which the notary may subsequently move the notary’s office, within thirty days thereafter[iv].
Whenever the name of any notary is changed by decree of court, or otherwise, such notary may continue to perform official acts, in the name in which s/he was commissioned, until the expiration of his/her term, but s/he should, within thirty days after entry of such decree, or after such name change, if not by decree of court, notify the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the recorder of deeds of the county in which s/he maintains an office of such change of name[v].
57 P.S. § 158 provides that a notary public should provide and keep an official seal which is used to authenticate all the acts, instruments and attestations of the notary. The seal should be a rubber stamp and should show clearly in the following order:
- the words Notarial Seal;
- the name and surname of the notary and the words Notary Public;
- the name of the municipality and county in which the notary maintains an office; and
- the date the notary’s commission expires.
Every notary public should keep and maintain custody and control of an accurate chronological register of all official acts by that notary done by virtue of that notary’s office, and should, when thereunto required, give a certified copy of the register in the notary’s office to any person applying for same.
Each register should contain[vi]:
- the date of the act,
- the character of the act,
- the date and parties to the instrument, and
- the amount of fee collected for the service.
The register and other public records of such notary will not in any case be liable to be seized, attached or taken in execution for debt or for any demand whatsoever. Also, a notary public register is the exclusive property of the notary public and may not be used by any other person and may not be surrendered to any employer of the notary upon termination of employment.
Pursuant to 57 P.S. § 162, notaries have power to administer oaths and affirmations, certify copies and take depositions, affidavits, verifications, upon oath or affirmation and acknowledgments according to law, in all matters belonging or incident to the exercise of their notarial office.
Any person who will be convicted of having willfully and knowingly made or taken a false oath, affirmation, deposition, affidavit, certification or acknowledgment before any notary in any matters within their official duties is guilty of perjury under and is subject to penalties.
57 P.S. § 168 provides that the Secretary of the Commonwealth may, for good cause:
- reject any application, issue a written reprimand, suspend or revoke the commission of any notary public.
- impose a civil penalty not to exceed five hundred dollars for each act or omission which constitutes a violation of this act.
- order a notary to attend education courses for an act or omission which constitutes a violation of this act.
[i] 57 P.S. § 151.
[ii] 57 P.S. § 153.
[iii] 57 P.S. § 154.
[iv] 57 P.S. § 155.
[v] 57 P.S. § 156.
[vi] 57 P.S. § 161.