Guidance for Pennsylvania Notaries Who Are Court Reporters
The COVID-19 pandemic emergency declaration waiver issued March 20, 2020 will expire on September 30, 2021. The waiver authorized the suspension of personal appearance (i.e. physical presence) before notaries who are court reporters/stenographers participating in criminal, civil and administrative proceedings in this Commonwealth. This enabled court reporters to administer oaths and affirmations to individuals by telephone or videoconference.
Since the March 20, 2020 waiver was issued, Pennsylvania notary law has changed to permit remote online notarization. With remote online notarization or RON, the legal requirement that the person making a statement in or executing a signature on a record personally and physically appear before the notary is met by the use of audio-visual electronic communication technology. See 57 Pa.C.S. § 306 and § 306.1. A Pennsylvania notary (who must be located in the Commonwealth), who intends to perform notarial acts for remotely located individuals (who are not in the physical presence of the notary and may be outside the Commonwealth), must notify the Department of State, use an approved communication technology containing two different types of identity-proofing processes or services, and modify the notarial certificate to indicate that the notarial act was conducted using communication technology.
It is the Department's interpretation of section 306 of the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) that neither a certified copy nor a purely oral oath or affirmation relates to a statement made in or a signature executed on a record. Therefore, these two notarial acts do not require personal appearance before a notary public or identification of the individual taking the oath or requesting the certified copy/deposition. Pennsylvania notaries who certify or attest a copy or deposition and/or administer a purely oral oath or affirmation, such as a testimonial oath in legal proceedings, may perform these acts for remotely located customers without becoming a remote notary. This does not apply to the notarial act of administering a written oath or affirmation, where the oath also is signed by the customer. An example of a written oath is the notary public oath of office, which taken by the notary before entering into the duties of the office, reduced to writing and signed on the bond form and recorded.
In other words, Pennsylvania notaries who are court reporters or stenographers and who are participating in criminal, civil and administrative proceedings may continue to administer oaths and affirmations by telephone or video conference as part of those proceedings, without becoming a remote notary or using approved remote technology to administer oral oaths and affirmations remotely. Proceedings include depositions, arbitrations, and hearings that occur as part of any criminal, civil and administrative legal proceeding.
The Department intends to clarify by regulation that personal appearance is not required for the notarial act of copy/deposition certification or for administering an oral oath or affirmation. The regulations will specify that the notary and the person taking the oral oath or affirmation must be able to hear and communicate with each other. Note: This interpretation and any future regulations are not designed to override any applicable rules of court or procedure.
Lastly, the notary/court reporter must continue to document all notarial acts in the journal, in accordance with section 319 of the Revised Uniform Law.