The New York Department of State said yesterday it has adopted new rules designed to deter notaries public from seeking clients for legal services they are not authorized to perform. The regulations, which add a new Part 200 to Title 19 NYCRR, prohibit notaries from advertising their services in foreign languages that falsely represent or imply they are licensed attorneys authorized to practice law. Those notaries who do advertise in New York in foreign languages must include the following disclaimer in their ad materials: "I am not an attorney licensed to practice law and may not give legal advice about immigration or any other legal matter or accept fees for legal advice."
The State Department said the regulation is designed in particular to end confusion when the Spanish translation of "notary public" is used to deceive consumers. A "notario publico" in Mexico, for instance, is a legal professional who validates the incorporation of companies, real estate sales, the establishment of deeds and wills and other transactions. That is far different than the duties of notaries public, who primarily are empowered to verify a signer's identity and attest to a signature on documents.
The new regulations take effect in 90 days. Notaries found in violation can face revocation or suspension of their licenses and fines of up to $1,000 per violation. Violators also can be referred to the state attorney general for prosecution.