October 25, 2013

One Must be an Attorney to Adverstise as a Notario Publico

In order to become a California notary public one must basically take a notary educational course, pass the notary exam, pass a background check and obtain a notary bond. 

Conversely in Mexico, to become a notary public ("Notario Publico") one must be an attorney and pass a series of exams. Upon successful completion, the notary is given the keys to the city in which they practice. No not really. They are actually given a patent by the state government of Mexico in which they practice. 

Various documents in Mexico must be notarized, thereby an attorney will invariably be able to inspect certain documents. Such is not the case in California as there is no requirement that a notary be an attorney. Thus a notary in California, unless they are an attorney, cannot legally examine documents that are set to be notarized. The reason being is that since a notary is not a lawyer, they do not have the authority to engage in the practice of law, i.e. a law license. If the notary does engage in the practice of law, and is not an attorney, he or she exposes themselves to criminal liability. California law is specific in making it a crime to practice law without a license. Bus & P C § 6126. 

Tragically, many immigrants from Mexico have come to California and sought the services of a notary thinking that the notary is a lawyer. Almost always the notary will not be an attorney. Yet to the Mexican immigrant, they believe that the notary is really an attorney because of their cultural background. Hence, the Mexican immigrant can easily be lured into believing that the notary is a lawyer and will follow the advice they give them, which is typically erroneous or incomplete. 

In light of this, the California legislature passed the following bill (AB-1159 - creates Bus & P C § 6126.7):

It is a violation of subdivision (a) of Section 6126 for any person who is not an attorney to literally translate from English into another language, in any document, including an advertisement, stationery, letterhead, business card, or other comparable written material, any words or titles, including, but not limited to, “notary public,” “notary,” “licensed,” “attorney,” or “lawyer,” that imply that the person is an attorney. As provided in this subdivision, the literal translation of the phrase “notary public” into Spanish as “notario publico” or “notario,” is expressly prohibited.

So the next time you see the phrase “notario publico” on a sign, the person behind the sign must be an attorney or else they face financial consequences. Bus & P C § 6127.6 statute further reads:

(c) (1) In addition to any other remedies and penalties prescribed in this article, a person who violates this section shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) per day for each violation, to be assessed and collected in a civil action brought by the State Bar.