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My Greatest Accomplishment: Becoming a Notary Public November 3, 2009

Posted by rscottgriffin in Uncategorized.

When consulting a former colleague on some things I should think about when starting my own law practice, she suggested that I “sign-up” to be a Notary Public in Fulton County.  She suggested this so I could add Real Estate closings to my professional offerings.  (For others that are attorneys reading this, I realize there is some question to notarizing documents for a party I’m representing, but it doesn’t hurt, right?)  So, I asked around, and they said, oh it’s easy, you fill out the form, take it to the court, and there you go.  Great.

Georgia, being the progressive State that it is, actually offers an on-line application.  Praise Her for electronic government.  So, while I was still at my firm, knowing that we had plenty of Notaries around to notarize the application, I decided to go ahead and fill the thing out.  I will preface the rest of this story with the fact that I *possibly* did not fully and completely read all of the details of the application rules.  Hell, I’m a lawyer.  Unless it’s in published rules of court or an order or some administrative agency, a thorough perusal is usually sufficient.  So, I asked one of the secretaries and one of our case clerks (who is a Notary) to serve as endorsers on my application.  We filled in the application, I printed it out, signed it, had Travis notarized it, and voi la…I could become a notary.  Wrong.

The next week, my application in hand, I set off for the Clerk of Superior Court of Fulton County.  I sat down at the window and passed through my application.  On each and every legal document, court admission, court pleading, patent application, mortgage application, insurance application, driver’s license, check, and any other piece of paper that I have to sign in an official manner, I sign it with my first initial, and then my middle and last names – R. Scott Griffin.  Like many a southern boy before me, was cursed by being called by my middle name, and the application was VERY clear to apply in the manner in which you SIGN YOUR NAME.

So, my first argument with this particular bureaucrat was over whether they could issue me a Notary seal with my first initial, then my full name.  I explained the situation, explained I was a member of the State Bar of Georgia under that form of my name (including producing my bar card), and even showed that my driver’s license had that EXACT signature.  He had to ask his supervisor and mumbled something about “Homeland Security,” but I avoided THAT particular political discussion.  After a few minutes in the back, it was determined that was acceptable.  He then begins to take my application and enter the information into his computer.  (Why they have an electronic application that basically prints what you type, but requires them to perform data entry why you attempt to sit pretending to be patient is really beyond me.)  At the first endorsement, the secretary’s, he notes that she does not live in Fulton County, but in Cobb.  (This is the part where I realize I may have skimmed past something important in the rules, and I’ll own that part.)  So, he says, get two Fulton County endorsers, and I’m all set.  Great.  Trip number one down.

So, I get a friend and neighbor to scratch through the prior endorsement, per his instructions, and fill out new endorser information.  I embark on my second journey.  I go and sit at the window, and the same gentleman begins to enter the information anew.  (I remind him we’ve already solved the great name debate of 2009).  The next problem then arises.  He asks if this new endorser has a local phone number.  “I don’t know, what did he write?”  This is an out of state number, he says.  “Oh, he only has a cell phone and moved here from Florida, and that’s his only phone.”  This is when it really gets interesting – apparently, and this was NOT in the rules, each of your endorsers has to have a LOCAL phone number because…the phones at the Fulton County Superior Court Clerk’s Office can’t dial long distance!!!!

He also informed me during this second visit that I was really “causing him problems” because I noted on my application that I had a reckless driving conviction four and one-half years ago.  He indicated that, although it was “not that bad,” the clerk generally likes to INTERVIEW people that have answered in the affirmative to the particular question about convictions other than minor traffic citations.  Seriously?!?!  Interview???!?!  So, at this point, the ire and irritation were seriously bubbling up inside of me.  The only thing that I could do to keep from screaming at this man at the absurd turns this application process was taking was return all of my stuff to my bag and walk out and say I’d come back…AGAIN.

So, back on-line I went.  I started the application anew, filling in all of my required information.  I then tracked down two friends, one of whom is a notary, to fill out the endorsers section.  I also completed all of the information about my reckless driving issue.  Last week, off I went to the courthouse for a likely-unprecedented THIRD time, with my application, complete with endorsements from Fulton County residents with local phone numbers, a full explanation of my reckless driving conviction, and the court papers for the resolution.  I.  Was.  Ready.

Yeah, you knew it was coming…he HAD to give me a hard time about something.  He was about to tell me that they could not accept the application because my endorsers were WRITTEN in as opposed to being typed and that after November 1, they would no longer be accepting applications with anything filled-in in writing.  I said, “well, it’s not November 1, and after the first time I came you told me to have a new endorser write his name in, therefore I thought that was fine.”  (Again, I note that NONE of this is actually in the rules or noted on the on-line application.)  So, he asked his superior, who said that it was fine and that they would get it taken care of.  Next, he looked to my explanation of my conviction, and I noted that I had all of the papers.  The supervisor, still standing there, asked if he could HOLD ON TO MY ORIGINAL FILE!!!  Um, NO!!!  Lord, what kind of personal records do you people keep if you would you give your only copy to a stranger?!!?  In the ensuing conversation we agreed on which pages they needed, which I handed over to them for him to copy.  I got my papers back, put everything up, and he noted that I should “hear something” in the next week or so.  If I don’t, I should call.  At this writing, I have not heard anything from them, so I have no idea if the clerk wants to interview me.

That does not end the story, though.  Of course, after I get OUTSIDE OF SECURITY at the courthouse, I decide that I probably needed to check to make sure I had all of my papers.  One of them…the original, was not returned.  When I tried to go back through security, I was not allowed because only workers were allowed to use that entrance.  So, back around the block I went, back through the security line, and back to the office to retrieve my original, which he has just sat on his desk and not even copied.  Wow, these people are detail-oriented.

So, at this point, I have no idea if I’ll actually become a Notary Public.  I’m sure that they will find some other issue that I have to address, but right now, no news is good news.  Thursday of this week will be a “week” since the application was filed.  Also, keep in mind that I have managed to get admitted to the State Bar of Georgia, all Georgia State courts, the Northern District of Georgia, the United States Patent Office, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and numerous other District Courts on a Pro Hac (per case) basis, and adding up the effort I expended for each of those STILL would not come to what I’ve had to deal with just to become a Notary Public.  So, rest assured, Fulton County, your public servants are ensuring that those people that sign off that it really is you signing your documents are doing everything in their power to make sure you’re safe!  And, y’all keep your fingers crossed for me, okay?



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