Sunday, September 21, 2014

"To Whom Much Is Given, Much is Required" - Except for Alabama Notaries

As a rule, I try and keep religion and business separate. It was advice given to me years ago, and it's served me well so far.  Although the lines between religion and business are often blurred here in the Bible Belt, I tend to err on the side of caution and keep the two separate.  But today I feel a need to venture into grey matter and quote a familiar Bible text:  Luke 12:48, KJV.

"But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes,
shall be beaten with few stripes.
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required:
and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more".

In my family, when the elders quoted this text, it served as a reminder that a three-year old cousin might be excused for throwing a tempter tantrum in church, but don't let a thirteen year old try it.   This text served another purpose.  Those of us with talents like singing, playing an instrument, or having keen memorization abilities, were expected to use our "God-given-gifts" at church, school and in the community.  To do otherwise would be considered dishonorable, and, yes, a sin.

So what does this have to do with notaries?  Hear me out.

Being a Notary in any state brings with it a lot of responsibility. A notary's signature and stamp on a piece of paper carries a lot of weight.  Depending on where you live, it's required to adopt a child and give up a child. Going on vacation?  If both parents aren't traveling and trip is to take Little Bobby outside the U.S.?  You need a notary.  Selling a car or a house?  Notary.  Wills, Affidavits, Power of Attorney. Dial 1-800-Notary. Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates all require a notary's stamp. I'm serious. Take a look at yours. And the list goes on.

So, how does the notary learn the proper steps to follow when executing his/her duties?  Well, in Alabama that's left entirely up to the Notary.  Alabama doesn't require any training.  Nope.  None. Nada.  No kidding.  Some notary's look for training online or locally.  Others ask other notaries what to do.  And a few just wing it. I'm not making this up.

And how do Alabama Residents know for sure whether the notary they go to knows what he/she is doing? Most won't know until it's time to execute the form, and sometimes that's too late.  How do I know all of this?  Because not only am I an Alabama Notary, but I also need my signature notarized on documents from time to time.  I cringe when a Notary fails to place me under oath even though the form requires it.  More than once I've had to tell the notary what information should be printed by him/her on the blank lines of the notary certificate.  Talk about awkward. Why give a person's position so much authority and not require training is beyond me.

Christ is speaking in Luke 12:48 and He suggests mercy will be shown to the sinner who unknowingly errs.  I hope when a notary's mistake comes to light, the Alabama's judicial system will be equally merciful.

Two years ago, The Alabama Code - Notary Section was amended (SB54, enacted in January 2012 ). Among other things, it increased the notary fee from fifty cents to five dollars. A step in the right direction, right?  But, wait.  SB 54 also did away with the requirement to have notaries maintain a record/journal of documents they notarize, and the name of the person(s) signing the form.  One step forward and two steps back. SMH.

Apparently, the wheels of Alabama's justice system seem to be turning quite nicely despite the lack of notary training.  I have not heard of any major problems in the News.  Have you?  So maybe I'm making a big deal for no reason. But if other states see the need to require training, or at least provide notaries with an instructional handbook, why not Alabama?  I'm just saying.

To whom much is given, much is required?  Ummm...I don't know.  Maybe.  But when it comes to notaries, I guess it depends on which state you reside.

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