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Alabama student threatens Tiger Stadium…

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University of Alabama student accused of threatening LSU Tiger Stadium
Updated 8:56 AM; Today 7:44 AM

BATON ROUGE, LA – SEPTEMBER 19: Fans watch during the game between the Louisiana State University Tigers and the University of Louisiana-Lafatette Ragin’ Cajuns at Tiger Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
By The Associated Press
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A University of Alabama student is accused of threatening Louisiana State’s Tiger Stadium during the school’s Saturday night football game against the University of Florida.

The Tuscaloosa News reports 19-year-old Connor Bruce Croll of Crozet, Virginia, was arrested by officers at the Alabama school and jailed Sunday as a “fugitive from justice.”
He faces unspecified charges in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Authorities didn’t immediately provide further detail about the nature of the threat or say whether Croll intended to carry it out. The newspaper didn’t say if Croll had a lawyer.

University of Alabama spokesman Chris Bryant says pranks and threats can have serious ramifications and require an appropriate response. He says the school is cooperating with authorities but can’t provide details on the arrest of or allegations against the freshman.

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Louisiana split jury law…

U.S. Supreme Court casts skeptical eye on Louisiana’s split-jury law
BY JOHN SIMERMAN | STAFF WRITER PUBLISHED OCT 7, 2019 AT 7:15 PM

John Simerman

Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill found herself on the defensive Monday as she struggled to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court that the Constitution does not require juries to be unanimous — in Louisiana, in Oregon or even in federal courtrooms.

That was the position that Murrill staked out as she defended the high court’s 1972 decision in Apodaca v. Oregon, which endorsed the use of split-jury verdicts in Louisiana and Oregon — the only states to allow them.

In a split verdict of its own, the court in Apodaca said federal juries must be unanimous but that states may adopt their own jury rules.

On the first day of its new session, the Supreme Court on Monday revisited that fundamental question for the first time since, in the case of Evangelisto Ramos, who was convicted in 2016 of second-degree murder on a 10-2 vote by a New Orleans jury and sentenced to life in prison.

Justices on both ends of the ideological spectrum left little doubt of their views that the same rules should apply in federal and state criminal trials. Much of the questioning Monday revolved around figuring out a way to justify doing away with the Apodaca decision, given that Louisiana and Oregon have relied on it as a staple of criminal justice for 47 years.

Advocates argue that the Apodaca ruling is obsolete and that the court should give it little, if any, precedent when considering whether to let it stand as an anomaly.

Arguing for Ramos, Jeffrey Fisher, a professor at Stanford Law School, encouraged the court to overturn Apodaca as illogical and obsolete, describing the ruling as an “isolated relic of an abandoned doctrine.”

Tilting the scales: What to know about Louisiana’s controversial non-unanimous jury law
The high court agreed to hear Ramos’ case just months after Louisiana voters jettisoned split verdicts at the polls. The nearly 2-1 vote ended a 120-year practice rooted in the Jim Crow era, but only prospectively; it applies only to people tried for crimes committed in 2019 or later.

At stake in the Ramos case, at minimum, are scores of convictions from the last few years in Louisiana and Oregon that remain on appeal and could be upended should the court overturn the Apodaca decision. In Louisiana, the decision could also affect defendants awaiting trial for crimes committed before this year.

Murrill argued that the fallout could be much more significant than that. Each of the roughly 32,000 inmates now serving time in a Louisiana prison, she said, might file an appeal on the basis that their conviction — whether by guilty plea or trial — was obtained under jury rules since deemed invalid.

But Justice Stephen Breyer waved off that figure as overblown, saying any change would likely only affect those actually convicted by split verdicts.

“With all the work gone into this, has anybody got any rough idea of what percentage of those people who are convicted are convicted by nonunanimous juries?” Breyer asked.

“There’s just no reliable data,” she responded.

Chief Justice John Roberts also was among those asking for numbers.

“Is the reason you don’t know because the jury is not typically polled or — or what?” he asked.

“Because it is not always polled and … even in some cases where it may have been, it may not have been recorded or kept,” Murrill responded.

In fact, an exhaustive review by The Advocate found that 40% of felony jury trials end with split verdicts and that they disproportionately affect black defendants. The review also found, as Murrill suggested, that frequently there is no specific record of how jurors voted.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said predictions of chaos in the courts were beside the point at this stage. Whether such a ruling would apply to the legions of convicts now serving time in prison after exhausting their appeals is one for later, she said.

“The case of retroactivity to convictions that are already final is not before us,” she told Murrill. “It would come before us in a case if you lose this one, but that is not a question that we can properly address here.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch, meanwhile, suggested that perhaps the constitutional rights of those imprisoned on the basis of split verdicts were as important, if not more, as the headaches overturning Apodaca would create for Louisiana.

“I can’t help but wonder, well, should we forever ensconce an incorrect view of the United States Constitution for perpetuity, for all states and all people, denying them a right that we believe was originally given to them, because of 32,000 criminal convictions in Louisiana?” he asked.

Murrill found herself in the awkward position of asking the court to respect the precedent it set in the Apodaca decision, while overlooking the fact that in that decision, five of nine justices said they believed the Sixth Amendment required unanimous juries.

Under questioning from Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court’s newest member, Murrill acknowledged that her argument was “concededly not good” if the court decides that the Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury trial requires a unanimous jury.

But she claimed there is substantial historical support for the notion that unanimity wasn’t spelled out in the Sixth Amendment because it was considered and rejected by the Framers, not because it was assumed. Opponents of the split-verdict law are now trying to “add back words that the Senate rejected in 1789,” she argued.

The court seemed dubious. Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that Alexander Hamilton himself had deleted a reference to the right to a unanimous jury because “it’s so self-evident, we don’t need to include it.”

Several justices probed the lawyers over the constitutional differences between unanimity and jury size, given the court’s ruling in a different case that juries with as few as six members could return valid, unanimous verdicts.

That raised questions among the justices over whether unanimity was more inherent to the notion of a jury among the Framers than jury size. Fisher argued it was, based on a stronger tie to common law at the time.

Kavanaugh was the first to raise the question of the racial spark of Louisiana’s law, noting its origins “in a desire, apparently, to diminish the voices of black jurors in the late 1890s.” Kavanaugh asked if it was a relevant counterpoint to Murrell’s claims that, essentially, the court let Louisiana and Oregon rely on split verdicts for too long to overturn them now.

Fisher responded that if the state wants to argue about its reliance on the law over more than a century, “it’s perhaps justifiable to look at the origins of the law that it’s defending.”

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Teddy!!

 

Teddy Bridgewater rides his bike to and from Saints games

Teddy Bridgewater rides his bike to the Superdome for home games

The Saints are 3-0 since Bridgewater took over for an injured Drew Brees.

NEW ORLEANS — You see a lot of people outside the Superdome after a Saints game, but have you seen Teddy Bridgewater?

The Saints QB let it slip after Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers that he rides his bike to and from home games.

Bridgewater says he loves the peaceful ride there and back, but he wouldn’t mind company.

Crazy BMX Bike Riding by woozyBMX
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“I had no idea it was a big deal,” Bridgewater said in the Saints locker room Wednesday. “If anyone wants to ride a bike with me I’m open to it, but you know, I enjoy my little ride to the stadium. It’s been a peaceful ride. I’m open to people riding with me though.”

RELATED: Optimism has never been higher for Saints – here are 4 reasons why

RELATED: Perseverance brings Teddy Bridgewater to success with Saints

A reporter followed up and asked if the Saints backup QB was worried about hitting a pot hole on his bike.

“I’m more worried about my car than my bike,” he laughed.

The Saints are 3-0 since Bridgewater took over for an injured Drew Brees.

The Saints take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road Sunday. The game kicks off at noon on Sunday on Channel 4.

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Closing the justice gap…

3 Thoughts About Closing The Justice Gap

Addressing this crisis requires cooperation and collaboration.

One of the greatest crises facing the legal profession, covered extensively in these pages, is the justice gap. For many reasons, including (but not limited to) the high cost of legal services, millions of Americans find themselves unable to obtain access to justice.

At the 2018 annual meeting and conference of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), held in Baltimore earlier this week, I attended a panel entitled “Three States and Three Approaches to Access to Justice.” It featured three librarians — Catherine McGuire of the Maryland State Law Library, Terrye Conroy of the University of South Carolina, and Miriam Childs of the Law Library of Louisiana — describing the A2J challenges they face in their states and what librarians can do to meet them.

Here are three takeaways from the discussion, advice for law librarians — as well as lawyers, law students, and anyone else interested in helping — on how to bridge the justice gap.

1. Understand the conditions on the ground.

The access to justice problem, and what’s needed to address it, will vary from state to state and city to city. The panelists identified several metrics to consider, including median household income, percentage of the population below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, and number of attorneys per 10,000 people below 125 percent of the federal poverty level.

Law libraries play a major role in addressing the justice gap. Legal aid lawyers are in short supply, especially due to funding cuts, and many Americans who need legal help actually don’t qualify for legal aid — their incomes are too high for legal aid, but too low to afford quality legal representation. As a result, many individuals must represent themselves pro se. Lacking law books or subscriptions to online legal research services, they seek help at libraries, where they can access legal authorities and sometimes even services like Westlaw and Lexis.

So the number and availability of law libraries open to the public must be considered when responding to the justice gap. For example, in Louisiana the law libraries open to the public are concentrated in the southern part of the state, where New Orleans and Baton Rouge are located, and in Maryland, they are concentrated in the central part of the state, as opposed to the east or west. Transportation and geography therefore affect the ability of the public to access legal resources.

2. Find your partners.

The problem of access to justice is too large to be addressed by any one group. The panelists encouraged librarians to forge alliances with other constituencies who can help, including bar associations, whether state, county, or speciality bars; A2J organizations, such as formal Access to Justice Commissions or Judiciary Access to Justice Departments; public library systems; and legal services organizations like legal aid.

The best partners and partnerships will vary from state to state. Much will depend on what resources are available and which organizations are willing to help. Also, how aggressively a state regulates lawyers can play a role. In states with strong unauthorized practice of law (UPL) rules, non-lawyers might need to be more careful in terms of how much they do.

In Maryland, libraries have partnered with Legal Aid lawyers for a very successful “Lawyer in the Library” program (which is where ticket proceeds from the Above the Law/Evolve the Law event at AALL were donated). You can read about the Maryland program over at the Baltimore Sun, and you can read about “Law at the Library” programs in general over at the ABA Journal.

3. The internet is your friend.

The worldwide web has transformed so many areas of American life, including access to justice. And the full potential of the internet to help bridge the justice gap has not yet been fully realized.

Because of the problems of geography and limited library access discussed above, many people who need legal help have no choice but to turn to the web for resources. This is where law librarians — and lawyers, technologists, and academics — can help.

Terrye Conroy of the University of South Carolina talked about the successful “Circuit Riders” program and website she helped launch in her state. It began in 2007 as a series of day-long workshops, presented by law librarians to non-law librarians throughout South Carolina, to educate them about legal resources. Eventually it gave rise to a comprehensive website, Circuit Riders: Basic Legal Research Training, which describes itself as follows:

To reach the largest possible audience in the most economical way, we created this online guide that includes all of the Circuit Riders training materials and videos. With our new online presence, we hope to make it more convenient for busy librarians to access our materials and to encourage libraries to use these materials to conduct their own in-house workshops on legal research.

Today the website is a popular and important resource, used by South Carolina librarians and citizens both for researching for legal cases and for civic education more generally. Thanks to Circuit Riders and similar sites in other states, even citizens who don’t live near a law library can access legal resources, as long as they have internet access. (Of course, inadequate internet access for low-income people and people living in rural or remote parts of the country is a serious problem, known as the “digital divide” or “digital exclusion” — but let’s deal with one problem at a time.)

The problem of access to justice in our nation is vast. But if we do our homework, work together, and harness the power of technology, we can make a difference.

AALL ANNUAL MEETING & CONFERENCE [American Association of Law Libraries]
Attorneys partner with public libraries to reach underserved clients [ABA Journal]
Working out of the library, Maryland Legal Aid helps people grapple with legal issues [Baltimore Sun]


DBL square headshotDavid Lat is editor at large and founding editor of Above the Law, as well as the author of Supreme Ambitions: A Novel. He previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey; a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; and a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. You can connect with David on Twitter (@DavidLat)LinkedIn, and Facebook, and you can reach him by email at dlat@abovethelaw.com.

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Wage gap for attorneys..

All Work And Low Pay: Wage Gap Persists For Legal Aid Attys

By Emma Cueto | September 29, 2019, 8:02 PM EDT

A new report from the Legal Services Corporation, which provides grants to legal aid organizations, highlighted just how much groups are able to do with sparse resources — and how low the compensation is for attorneys doing vital work.

According to LSC’s By the Numbers report released last week, salaries for legal aid attorneys lag far behind those paid to attorneys in private practice, especially those at large BigLaw firms.

“Legal aid lawyers as a group are the lowest paid lawyers in the profession,” LSC President James J. Sandman said. “But they are doing God’s work. These are people who serve the most fundamental legal needs of people who cannot afford a lawyer. I think they’re heroes, and I think they’re underappreciated.”

Click to view interactive version

The average salary for a staff attorney at the organizations receiving grants from LSC is about $63,000, according to the report. More experienced supervising attorneys earn an average of $84,000, and a litigation director at one of these organizations might expect to make an average of $107,000, the report found.

Meanwhile, the starting salary for a first-year associate at a BigLaw firm is typically over $150,000, with some firms offering up to $190,000 for first-year attorneys, especially those living in major cities.

While it isn’t surprising that attorneys working for nonprofit groups would receive less pay, the size of the discrepancy — and the low salaries in general — is concerning, Sandman said.

Attorneys often graduate law school with substantial student loan debt. According to Law School Transparency, which tracks data related to law school, law school tuition at a public university costs an average of $27,000 per year for in-state students, and costs $47,000 on average at private universities as of 2018.

The LSC report, however, highlighted how much these attorneys and the organizations they work for are able to do, despite the comparatively low salaries.

Across the 132 legal aid groups supported by LSC, attorneys closed 743,000 cases, including over 200,000 family cases and over 200,000 housing-related cases. Overall, 1.8 million people live in households benefited by LSC grantees in 2018. And while some of those cases were handled by private attorneys volunteering their time, about 89% of all cases were still resolved by nonprofits’ staff attorneys.

In addition, 1.5 million people got help from these legal aid groups at court help desks and similar services, and 11 million people total visited the groups’ websites, which often contain educational resources, according to the report.

However, Sandman highlighted, there are a total of 55 million Americans who are eligible for LSC-funded legal aid assistance, and legal aid groups do not currently have the resources to help them all.

“By the Numbers is a report of people who were served,” he said. “It says nothing about people who weren’t served. … You have to look at both together.”

LSC’s funding has not kept pace with inflation. The organization received $410 million in 2018, a number significantly below funding levels in the 1980s and 90s, once adjusted for inflation. Although funding started declining in the late 1990s, in the 20 years prior to that, it typically received between $500 million and $800 million per year, when adjusted for inflation, according to the report.

In some cases, state legal aid funding has made up the gap. While LSC funding tends to account for about a third of the money its grantees receive each year, state and local grants also make up about 24%, according to the report.

Click to view interactive version

The amount of money coming from states has been increasing for several years now, the report said. However, Sandman pointed out that the amount of money available varies widely by state. While some states, such as New York, Minnesota, and Texas, provide a sizable amount of funding, other states, don’t provide much relative to the number of people in the state in need of legal aid.

In fact, the report showed, some states, including Delaware, North Dakota and Indiana, cut the amount of legal aid they provided in 2018.

Overall, Sandman said, legal aid groups needed more resources in order to do their work, from paying attorneys a more competitive wage to reaching more clients.

“Beyond the numbers,” he said, “I think it’s important to look at the substance of what legal aid programs do. They handle cases that involve the basic issues of any society.”

Have a story idea for Access to Justice? Reach us at accesstojustice@law360.com.

–Editing by Katherine Rautenberg.

Mandeville honors fallen officer…

Mandeville honors Captain Vincent Liberto
Mandeville community gathers as Capt. Vincent Liberto is laid to rest
His funeral procession gathered hundreds of people from all walks of life

MANDEVILLE, La. — Capt. Vincent Libeto made one last patrol in the city he loved Friday.

Friends, fellow first responders and Mandeville neighbors lined Highway 190 to say goodbye to the fallen hero.

It took more than half-an-hour for Capt. Vincent “Vinny” Liberto’s funeral procession to pass by the Mandeville Police Department, where he worked for 25 years.

“We’ve come to show our respects today,” Morgan Wood said. “It’s a tragic situation. It’s something that shouldn’t have happened. We came to show our children how to honor our law enforcement officers.”

Signs, salutes and blue hearts greeted Capt. Liberto on his final ride past the department. The funeral procession crossed under a huge American flag hanging between two fire department ladders.

RELATED: 9/11 group to pay off mortgage of fallen Mandeville Captain Liberto

“Sometimes you take for granted that you may not go home at the end of the day,” Jeremy Windom with the Mandeville Fire Department said. “Unfortunately, even in Mandeville the possibility is there and it’s very real.”

All across Mandeville there were personal messages for Liberto, his family and the grieving police department.

“It’s obvious right now the effect it’s having on this community,” Clay Rollman, a local restaurant owner, said. “As I was in the stores today, I just felt solemnness and everybody is just feeling the weight and praying for the families and the officers that support us.”

RELATED: Painted thin blue line signs raise money for fallen police captain’s family

Paul Murphy

@PMurphyWWL

Blue hearts for fallen Mandeville Police Captain Vincent Liberto. @WWLTV

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See Paul Murphy’s other Tweets

“I think we need to support our police, more now than ever before,” Kitty Carlisle said. “The things they’re having to deal with. It’s amazing to me. I don’t know how they do a simple a traffic stop anymore. It’s just so scary.”

Folks in Mandeville say the outpouring of support for Captain Vinny is to be expected in this tight-knit Northshore community.

RELATED: Fallen Mandeville police captain’s life celebrated nationwide

“Officer Vince has been around here for 30 years,” Gas Station Owner Melvin Lacrouts said. “We’ve been here since 1991. We’ve been knowing him a very, very long time.”

There is also a growing memorial to Capt. Liberto in front of the Mandeville Police Station.

“I’m going to be thinking about Vincent’s soul and how God has lifted him up to heaven and he will be looking down on us,” Kirt Frosch said.

RELATED: Man accused of killing Mandeville officer held without bond

4 THINGS TO KNOW NEWSLETTER

 

► Stay in the know with Southeast Louisiana’s top stories to start your workday. Sign up for the 4 Things to Know email newsletter to get headlines delivered to your inbox. Click here to sign up!

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Mandeville shooting apologies…

‘I’m just totally sorry:’ says grandmother of suspected Mandeville cop killer

‘I’m just totally sorry’ says grandmother of suspected Mandeville cop killer

“I want to ask him: What on earth happened that a simple stop come to this? It comes to one person dead and another person shot,” Eva Spicer said.

MANDEVILLE, La. — When given a chance to speak, Eva Spicer chose to apologize.

The grandmother of Mark Spicer, the 21-year-old man accused of killing Mandeville captain Vincent Liberto and wounding officer Ben Cato said she is still in shock.

“I could have almost passed out,” Eva Spicer said. “You don’t even figure him to do something like this. I’m just totally sorry.”

Eva Spicer says she learned about the shooting Friday night when a relative broke the news.

“I don’t know why it happened. Believe me, I couldn’t believe when they said little Mark did this, I said ‘they must be joking,’ then he said ‘No.’ That’s what my oldest son told me,” she said.

What she doesn’t understand is why.

RELATED: Man accused of killing Mandeville officer held without bond

Story continues under extended interview

When asked if Spicer had a history of drug abuse, she said he didn’t but that he was caught in possession of marijuana twice. When asked if he had violent behavior in the past, she said he had none.

“Not even in school, I don’t think there was any,” she said.

Eva Spicer says her grandson comes from a hard-working family, graduated from Saint Paul High School, played rugby for Springhill College but left early and then went to Southeastern University before dropping out.

RELATED: 9/11 group to pay off mortgage of fallen Mandeville Captain Liberto

“No, no history of mental illness,” she said, when asked about Mark Spicer’s mental state.

Eva Spicer says she hasn’t had a chance to speak to Mark but she wants to.

“I want to ask him: What on earth happened that a simple stop, because he didn’t have a license plate on the car, come to this? It comes to one person dead and another person shot. You have to ask him because you don’t know what to say why it happened,” she said.

Eva Spicer said in addition to wanting to talk to Mark, she wanted to go to the police department to express her sympathy.

RELATED: ‘We need to give back something:’ Mandeville comes together for fallen officer Vincent Liberto

RELATED: Funeral arrangements set for Mandeville Captain Vincent Liberto

4 THINGS TO KNOW NEWSLETTER

► Stay in the know with Southeast Louisiana’s top stories to start your workday. Sign up for the 4 Things to Know email newsletter to get headlines delivered to your inbox. Click here to sign up!

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How to lose your notary commission…

4 Easy Ways To Lose Your Notary Commission

New-UPL-legal-resized.jpgCarelessness and dishonesty are dangerous for Notaries. Negligence can lead to a document being a rejected or a business transaction’s invalidation — or worse. Here are 4 examples of negligence and misconduct that can cost you your Notary commission — temporarily or even permanently.

1. Notarizing Without The Signer Personally Appearing

Personal appearance by the signer is a crucial part of notarizing. All states require the signer to appear before the Notary at the time of the notarization. This is true even in states that have authorized remote online notarizations. In those states, the personal appearance requirement has been redefined.

In any case, failing to require a signer to appear before you means that you have no way of knowing who actually signed the document in question, or if they did so willingly. Not only can this cost you your Notary commission, failing to require personal appearance is one of the most common reasons Notaries are sued for negligence.

2. Failing To Properly Verify The Signer’s Identity

Failing to properly identify a signer is another easy way to lose your commission. If you don’t personally know the signer, you need to ask for ID that meets the requirements of your state’s Notary laws. Most states allow Notaries to use 1 of 3 methods for checking identity — through identification cards, personal knowledge or credible identifying witnesses. California Notaries, however, are not permitted to use personal knowledge to identify signers during notarizations.

Notaries are sometimes asked to overlook ID requirements — a signer may claim to have forgotten or lost their ID, or a boss may ask you not to ask for ID to avoid inconveniencing a signer who is an important client. But if you don’t identify the signer, you’re leaving the door open to document fraud — and there are likely to be serious consequences if it turns out the signer was an imposter.

3. Falsifying Information In A Notary Certificate

Never, ever agree to enter false or incorrect information when completing a Notary certificate. It may seem harmless on the surface, but if you intentionally record false information — such as backdating when the notarization took place — you are making a fraudulent statement and may be subject to any civil or criminal penalties under your state’s laws.

4. Giving Improper Legal Advice To A Customer

Notaries are strictly prohibited by law from giving unauthorized legal advice. If you’re not a qualified attorney, you are not allowed to answer signer questions about the legal effect of their documents. Nor may you give signers advice or answer questions about legal matters, and you cannot choose what type of notarization is needed. Answering questions from signers such as “What does this section of the document mean?” or “Is this document legal in a court of law?” when you aren’t qualified to do so are easy ways to get yourself into serious trouble, including your commission potentially being suspended or revoked.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

 

4 Comments

Add your comment

David DeVore

23 Sep 2019

thanks

Troy Boydston

23 Sep 2019

Thank you for this valuable information.

Edward Naylor

23 Sep 2019

Dear David: do not agree with your statement in #4 about choosing what type of notarization is needed. If verbiage in the document to be notarized has sworn or oath in it and the notary print below indicates acknowledge, the notary section needs to be corrected to a jurat type of wordage. Sincerely, Edward Naylor

National Notary Association

24 Sep 2019

Hello. You are correct that if the document in question includes pre-printed Notary certificate wording that clearly indicates what type of notarization is required, it is OK to proceed. However, if there is no clear indication what type of notarization is needed, a nonattorney Notary may not choose the notarization on the signer’s behalf. An acceptable option is to describe the different types of notarizations available (for example, acknowledgment or jurat) to the customer, and let the customer choose what notarization they would like performed.

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A notary’s greatest challenge…

Identifying Signers: A Notary’s Greatest Challenge

California Drivers License

Updated 9-12-19. “Can I accept this ID?” “My signer doesn’t look like the photo on her ID.” “What if the ID is expired?” Of all the questions Notaries ask the National Notary Association, the most common involve issues with verifying signers’ identities.

Compared to other tasks Notaries perform, verifying a signer’s identity is the most important, and arguably the most challenging. There are myriad variations of IDs and differing methods of verifying identity. And Notaries must always exercise a high-level of judgment before proceeding.

Every state and U.S. territory issues driver’s licenses and ID cards. In addition, there are inmate IDs, tribal IDs and identity cards issued by federal agencies, as well as the identity cards and passports issued by every country in the world.

What if the ID is issued by a county government? What if the passport is in a foreign language? What if you encounter a driver’s license marked with the words, “Federal Limits Apply” or “Permits Driving Only. Not for ID Purposes”? These issues and more constantly come up in the Notary community. And even if a signer has what appears to be a valid ID, how do you know it’s real?

A recent face-matching research survey involving more than 1,150 Notaries found that they failed to spot imposters about 28 percent of the time. And about 20 percent of the time, the survey-takers thought people were imposters when they were not. Given all this, verifying the identity of signers is far more challenging than simply asking to see their ID. Yet the point of a notarization is for you to certify that your signers are who they say they are. By understanding the different challenges, you will be in a much better position to protect the signer, the public and yourself.

Is The ID Fake Or Real?

Glenn Garrity, founder of the Southern California-based G2 Identity Management, noted that 49 percent of all identity theft crimes involve the use of fake IDs. In Connecticut, so many fake IDs were coming into the state that some grocery stores started asking customers buying alcohol for back-up identification, according to media reports.

Garrity noted that scam artists are getting savvier. He has seen cases where scammers in California, for example, use fake IDs supposedly from the East Coast. “They rely on the fact that you won’t be as familiar with those IDs.”

Notaries should be familiar with the IDs issued by their state, and may wish to keep an ID verification book available that include descriptions and sample images of driver’s licenses and ID cards issued by other states, the federal government and foreign countries.

To spot a fake ID, Garrity recommends that you take the ID in hand so you can feel the texture and tactile elements, and notice any unusual features. Then look for the right security features. Compare the photo and description with your signer. You can ask questions. Garrity said that scammers probably will know the fake date of birth, but not always their zodiac sign. Or ask for the name of a major cross street at their address.

Are You An Imposter?

Perhaps the hardest task in checking a person’s identity is matching the ID photo to the person in front of you. “It’s incredibly difficult to match a face to a photo ID,” said Megan Papesh, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Louisiana State University, who conducted the face-matching survey mentioned above.

Dr. Papesh noted that cross-cultural differences are particularly challenging. People have a much harder time accurately identifying individuals from another culture or race. As imperfect as matching faces to ID photos is, she said, there isn’t a better way to identify people at present because reliable facial recognition technology is not available. She offered some suggestions to minimize the risk of missing an imposter.

Features such as hair and weight can change, so Dr. Papesh recommended focusing on features that don’t change much, such as the size and shape of a person’s ears, nose, mouth and eyes. Examine the nose line or general size and shape of the chin. The distance between the nose, mouth and chin also can be revealing. But don’t just stick to one set of features. “What works when checking some individuals will not work for others,” Dr. Papesh said. “It’s a good idea to check a few features without getting tripped up by hair, weight and skin shade.”

The ‘Reasonable Person’ Standard

To some, it may seem as though Notaries are expected to be experts at verifying identities. In fact, given the sheer mass of identity-related issues in the world, it might seem that you have to be experts to carry out your duties. But that’s not the case. For the most part, Notaries are expected to take the same steps that a reasonable person would take in performing their duties, including verifying signers’ identities.

“Verifying identity is not an exact science,” said Bill Anderson, the NNA’s Vice President of Government Affairs. “This is an area where the Notary needs to exercise the most judgment.” Notaries can compare a signer to the ID photo and the physical description. They can compare the signature on the ID to that on the document. But it is still a judgment call.

Because there are so many potential gray areas, Anderson emphasized the need to take reasonable steps when making a judgment. He recommended an identity-vetting protocol for Notaries incorporating three best practices:

  1. Look for suspicious circumstances: Is the signer trying to rush you or distract you from your normal procedures? Is the signer explaining why their signatures might not match or why they don’t look like their ID photo? “A little common sense goes a long way,” Anderson said.
  2. Examine the ID: Look at the ID closely and check the various security features, such as the ghost images, microprinting and raised lettering. Have an ID verification book handy for out-of-state IDs.
  3. Match the ID to the signer: Instead of looking at hair, weight and other changeable features, focus on features that don’t change as much, such as the shape and position of ears, the nose, the mouth and the eyes. “By following these steps you can clearly explain your method of reasonably verifying signers’ identity,” he said.

Dr. Papesh offered another suggestion to the protocols: Take your time. “Most of the time when people make a really critical error in checking someone’s ID, it’s because they inconvenience the person whose ID they are checking,” she said. “They let something go. So it’s important to take more time.”

Michael Lewis is Managing Editor of member publications for the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources:

How To ID In A Multi-Cultural World

 

7 Comments

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Phyllis Foerster

04 Apr 2016

I never saw the answer about what to do if the ID/Driver’s License is expired.

Jen

04 Apr 2016

Hi Phyllis! Perhaps this article the NNA previously published will help: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/09/is-expired-id-acceptable-notarization

C. Tulipana

05 Apr 2016

In most states if I.D. is expired, it is not VALID so you cannot accept it.

Teresa Gyure

23 Sep 2019

Yet another article to show that remote online notarizations(RON) should not be done.

karen Johnson

23 Sep 2019

Is an ID always mandatory for a document to be notarized? I am in Minnesota and not finding a direct answer.

National Notary Association

23 Sep 2019

Hello. It would depend on the type of notarization being requested. For acknowledgments, verifications upon oath/affirmation or signature witnessings, a MN Notary must verify the identity of the signer through personal knowledge or satisfactory proof of identity (MS 358.55). However, certifying a copy of a document does not require you to verify the identity of the document holder.

Betty Dedman

23 Sep 2019

First, when you confirm the signing make SURE that the signer’s realize that their government issued photo ID needs to be current. If you are concerned about this, share your concern with your vendor/lender/title company, whoEVER hired you so that they know about this before the package arrives back with a surprise expired ID. It tell ALL signers when I call to expect to show me 2 ID’s and get them ready. I tell them it’s better than rifling through drawers at the signing looking for them, but it also helps against fraud, which IS OUR PRIME RESPONSIBILITY. I use my phone for copies, give back the ID’s (so none end up going home with my in my briefcase) and use the photo to copy their ID information on documents and in my journal. This Also gives me an opportunity to take a good look at their signature. Once I considered what I would do if only one set of initials was missing after I left. I had my DH write his initials on a piece of paper and I tried to copy them. It is VERY HARD to duplicate somebody else’s signature/initials bc people tend to sweep with a pen when they write. If you slow down it just doesn’t look the same. Re: expired ID’s, don’t be surprised if the company you are working for accepts an expired ID. I once witnessed a purchase signing and this guy was paying cash and the only ID he wanted to show me was expired. The seller wanted the money and the real estate office was happy, there was no lender and everyone was happy. His signature matched that on his ID, so who was I to complain? After all, I have identified signers with State ID’s whose expiration was 99-99-99. The only time I cancelled my participation was when a borrower kept assuring me that his new and 2nd wife would Have a new driver’s license before the signing, researched and found that she lived 4 miles away from a DMV, and for up to 4 days before the signing and the day before the signing, she STILL hadn’t gotten a new license. It smelled fishy to me and I didn’t want to be involved in that signing.

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