Updated 4-26-22. Sometimes a customer will ask for a copy of Notary's journal entry, and new Notaries may not know how to respond to such requests.
People make these requests because your Notary journal entries provide valuable information about each notarization, which can be important later if a document’s validity is challenged. A request for copies of journal entries can come from just about anyone — your signer, other parties to the transaction, commissioning officials and even law enforcement agencies. However, because of the sensitive information recorded in a journal, you always need to take the proper steps to protect a signer’s privacy when someone asks to view or copy a journal entry.
Step 1: Follow Your State Notary Requirements
Whenever someone asks to review or copy one of your Notary journal entries, follow your state laws and guidelines.
For example, some Arizona Notaries are required to keep two separate journals — one for public notarizations and one for notarizations related to confidential transactions, such as those covered by attorney-client privilege. If you are one of these Notaries, you may only provide copies from your public journal.
California allows any member of the public to request a copy of a journal entry, but the request must be in writing and include the name of the parties involved, the type of document, and the month and year the notarization took place. A California Notary who is an employee may be asked to provide copies of journal entries about work-related notarizations by an employer, provided the copying is done in the Notary's presence. An employer may not force a California Notary to provide copies of notarizations unrelated to the Notary's employment.
In Massachusetts, if a signer or witness tells you that they are a battered person, you must make a note in the journal that the person’s address shall not be subject to public inspection. Nevada permits any person to openly inspect the Notary’s journal during the time the Notary would normally be at work, and entries in a Texas Notary’s journal must remain available for public inspection and examination at “all reasonable times.”
In Oregon, unless the Notary is a public official or public employee, or the journal is in the possession of the Secretary of State, the Notary is exempt from disclosing journal contents required under Oregon’s open public records law except when requested by the Secretary of State. If a customer needs to see or obtain a copy of the journal entry for their transaction, the Notary may provide the requested entry.
If you are served with a subpoena or court order, you should fully comply with the terms of the order.
Step 2: Get The Request In Writing
Unless you’re commissioned in a state that allows a journal to be inspected or copied without qualification or limitation, requests should be made in writing. This is required by law in California, where a request must include the names of the parties to the notarization, the type of document notarized and the month and year the notarization took place.
In Hawaii, “Unless a law or official guideline otherwise allows, the Notary shall only show or provide a copy of a journal entry to an individual who presents a written and signed request specifying the month and year, the document type, and the principal or principals for the respective notarization, or a subpoena or other lawful written authorization” (CPR VIII-B-2).
Some states have additional requirements: Mississippi, for example requires a person asking to inspect a Notary's journal to be personally known to or provide satisfactory proof of identity to the Notary and sign the Notary's journal in a separate entry.
For states that do not have laws or rules regarding journal entry requests, such as Florida, The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility recommends that the requester submit a written and signed request to the Notary specifying the month and year, the document type, and the principal or principals for the respective notarization, or a subpoena or other lawful written authorization.
Step 3: Protect Other Journal Entries
Unless your state allows journals to be openly inspected, a person asking to see or copy an item should only be allowed access to entries directly related to their request. To protect the privacy of other signers, always cover unrelated entries on the same page as the entry you are copying. This prevents people from flipping through your journal looking at random entries to find information. However, this best practice would not apply in Nevada and Texas, where journal entries are considered public information and are available for open inspection. If a Texas Notary is asked for access to a journal entry made prior to 2009-2010, the Notary should cover any ID numbers or thumbprints in the entry because Texas Notaries are no longer permitted to record this information under state law. California and Mississippi grant law enforcement permission to inspect a Notary’s journal during an investigation.
A Reminder About COVID-19 Emergency Notary Orders
During the COVID-19 crisis, some states have issued emergency Notary orders temporarily authorizing alternatives to face-to-face notarizations such as remote online notarizations (RON) and remote ink-signed notarizations (RIN). Some of these emergency orders may include additional recordkeeping requirements separate from your state's permanent Notary laws. Even if your state does not normally require Notaries to keep a journal, be sure to follow all recordkeeping requirements included in your state when performing notarizations using temporary emergency guidelines.
David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.