I did something last week that I have never done as a notary public -- I refused to notarize for someone.
Refusing notary service is a serious matter. Notaries face the possibility of discrimination lawsuits for refusing to notarize if they don't have due cause.
But first, there is a difference between a notary refusing to notarize someone's signature, and turning someone down because the request for notarization was made when the notary was unavailable, or because the notary does not work on Sundays.
There is no law that says that notaries have to make themselves available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At least not in Colorado. And there is no law that says that a notary has to travel to someone to provide notary service. And if a notary is sitting in a restaurant, having dinner with the family, they don't have to get up from the table and respond to a call for notary service at that moment. A notary has every right to decline service.
Then there are the unlawful notarizations for which a notary can refuse service. And there can be many reasons. For example, if a person does not have sufficient identification, and cannot be properly identified.
Another reason a notary can refuse to notarize is if the person is mentally impaired and doesn't understand what they are signing.
This was my reason for refusing notary service.
I got a call last week to go to an assisted living center to notarize a Power of Attorney. The son was there with his mother. She was the one who would sign the Power of Attorney. She had acceptable identification. I recorded it in my notary journal. Then I had her sign the journal. This is when I began to suspect that there might be a problem. She was unable to sign her name without coaching from her son. He was basically telling her how to sign. After she signed my journal I asked her a simple question:
'Do you know what type of document you are signing?'
I sensed that her son had been rehearsing this with her because he had to give her cues. After some coaxing she was able to say that it was a Power of Attorney, but didn't know what it was for. The son made several attempts to get her to remember why she was signing it, but it was in vain. He asked me if there was anything I could do to get her to sign. That was out of the question. A notary is not supposed to try to pursuade someone to sign a document.
It was at this point that I turned to him and apologized. I told him that I could not notarize his mother's signature on the Power of Attorney. He seemed to be prepared for that response. He told me that he understood. Perhaps he went through this scenario with a different notary. He offered to pay me for traveling there and for the time spent, but I didn't accept it.
I felt bad that I had to refuse to notarize for someone. But I knew that I had no other choice. If she had signed the Power of Attorney, she would have signed her name to a document which she didn't understand. And if the Power of Attorney was abused in any way, I would have been responsible.
Refusal of notary service. It's not something that a notary ever wants to do. But sometimes it's something that a notary has to do.