Must a notary know foreign languages?

A notary who certifies the signature on a document need not review whether the content of the document is lawful—and thus may certify a signature on a document written in a language the notary does not know.

In a resolution dated 19 November 2010 (Case No. SN III CZP 82/10), the Polish Supreme Court held that a notary certifying a handwritten signature on a document is not required to examine whether the content of the document is consistent with the law. The justification for the resolution has not been issued yet.

Under Art. 69 of the Act on Notaries, a notary may certify 1) a handwritten signature; 2) the authenticity of a copy, excerpt or transcript of a document; 3) the date of presentation of a document; or 4) the existence of a living person or the person’s presence at specific place.

In the case that reached the Supreme Court, the appellant had gone to a notary seeking confirmation of the signature on a document in a foreign language, but the notary found irregularities in the document, including violations of law and improper wording in Polish, and refused to certify the signature.

So far it had not been inferred from the Law on Notaries that a notary has a duty to review the lawfulness of a document presented for certification. The Supreme Court confirmed in this resolution that there is no such duty.