| > The whole point of a notary is to bind a document to a person.  That
| > the person submitted two or more different documents at different
| > times is readily observable.  After all, the notary has the
| > document(s)!
| 
| No, the notary does not have the documents *after* they are notarized,
| nor do they keep copies. Having been a notary I know this
| personally. When I stopped being a notary all I had to submit to the
| state was my seal and my record books.
| 
| If I had to testify about a document I would only be attesting that
| the person who presented themselves adequately proved, under the
| prudent businessman's standard, that they were the person that they
| said they were and that I saw them sign the document in
| question. That's it. No copies at all. What would anyone have to
| testify about if a legal battle arose after the notary either died or
| stopped being a notary?
| 
| Think for a minute about the burden on a notary if they had to have a
| copy of every document they notarized. What a juicy target they would
| make for thieves and industrial spies. No patent paperwork would be
| safe, no sales contract, no will, or other document. Just think how
| the safe and burglar alarm companies would thrive. Now ask yourself
| how much it costs to notarize a document. Would that pay for the
| copying and storage. I don't know what the current fees are in
| California but 20 years ago they were limited to $6.00 per person per
| document and an extra buck for each additional copy done at the same
| time. My average was about $14.00 per session. My insurance was
| $50/year.  Nowhere near enough to cover my liability if I was to
This whole discussion has an air of unreality about it.

Historically, notary publics date from an era when most people couldn't
read or write, and hardly anyone could afford a lawyer.  How does
someone who can't read a document and can perhaps only scrawl an X
enter into a contract?  In the old days, he took the written contract
to a notary public, who would read it to him, explain it, make sure
he understood it, then stamp his scrawled "X".  The notary's stamp
asserted exactly the kind of thing that we discuss on this list as
missing from digital signatures:  That the particular person whose
"X" was attached (and who would be fully identified by the notary)
understood and assented to the contents of the contract.

Today, we assume that everyone can read, and where a contract is at all
complex, that everyone will have access to a lawyer.  (Of course, this
assumption is often invalid, but that's another story.)  The requirement
for a notary public's stamp is a faded vestige.  For certain important
documents, we still require that a notary sign off, but what exactly
that proves any more is rather vague.  Yes, in theory it binds a
signature to a particular person, with that signature being on a
particular document.  That latter is why the notary's stamp is a
physical stamp through the paper - hard(er) to fake.  Of course, most of
the time, the stamp is only applied to the last page of a multi-page
contract, so proves only that that last page was in the notary's hands -
replacing the early pages is no big deal.  I think I've seen notaries
initial every page, but I've also seen notaries who don't.

In practice, whenever I've needed to have a document notarized, a quick
look at some basic ID is about all that was involved.  It's quite easy
to get fake ID past a notary.  Given the trivial fee paid to a notary -
I think the limit is $2 in Connecticut - asking the notary to actually
add much of value is clearly a non-starter.

The financial industry has actually created its own system - I forget
the name, some like a Gold Bond Certification - that it requires for
certain "high-importance" transactions (e.g., a document asserting you
own some stock for which you've lost the certificates).  I've never
actually needed to get this - it's appeared as a requirement for
some alternative kinds of transactions on forms I've had to fill out
over the years - so I don't know exactly how it works.  However, it's
completely independent of the traditional notary public system, and
is run through commercial banks.

Trying to justify anything based on the current role of notary
publics - at least as it exists in the US - is a waste of time.

                                                        -- Jerry

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