Verification of Documents Without a Notary
Fla. Stat. § 92.525: A Potential Alternative During the COVID-19 Pandemic
With the current travel restrictions and closures in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many litigators have run into a common problem: How do I verify interrogatories, affidavits, and other litigation documents without access to an in-person notary?
Fla. Stat. § 92.525 provides a viable alternative to in-person or expensive tele-video notary services. Section 92.525 was passed in 2015 and allows for verification as to the content of documents filed for litigation. The required language and format necessary for proper use of Fla. Stat. § 92.525 is outlined in the statutory language. Section 92.525 is most useful in a litigation practice, specifically for use in verifying interrogatories or affidavits. It is important to note that the use of Section 92.525 is limited to the verification of content and does not usurp traditional notary services for verification of identity.
Another issue that many litigators may face is a client who, due to work from home restrictions, is not able to print, sign, and scan the document at issue. However, the use of an electronic signature is a potential work-around. Fla. Stat. § 668.004 provides that “unless otherwise provided by law, an electronic signature may be used to sign a writing and shall have the same force and effect as a written signature.”
Fla. Stat. § 668.003 (1) defines an electronic signature as “any letters, characters, or symbols, manifested by electronic or similar means, executed or adopted by a party with an intent to authenticate a writing.” Further, “ [a] writing is electronically signed if an electronic signature is logically associated with such writing.”
For certificates of parties and the form of signatures used in court documents, the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration govern:
(1) The signatures required on documents by subdivisions (a) [signatures by attorneys] and (b) [signatures of pro se litigants] of this rule may be:
(A) Original signatures.
(B) Original signatures that have been reproduced by electronic means, such as on electronically transmitted documents or photocopied documents.
(C) An electronic signature indicator using the “/s/”, “s/”, or “/s” [name] formats authorized by the person signing a document electronically served or filed.
(D) Any other signature format authorized by general law, so long as the clerk where the proceeding is pending has the capability of receiving and has obtained approval from the Supreme Court of Florida to accept pleadings and documents with that signature format.
Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.515.
As there is no specific signature requirement for a handwritten signature under Fla. Stat. § 92.525, an electronic signature should be sufficient to verify content.
The application and appropriateness for the use of Fla. Stat. § 92.525 is dependent upon the document being verified, and the area of law for which it is being used. However, where appropriate, Section 92.525 provides an efficient alternative to in-person notarization that has long-term application for the verification of content.