Notary Public Complaints Relating to Unauthorized Practice of
- Secretary of State's Office. A notary public who is not an attorney
and who advertises the services of a notary public in a language
other than English, whether by signs, pamphlets, stationery, or
other written communications or by radio or television, shall
post or otherwise include with the advertisement a notice that
the notary public is not an attorney.
- The notice must be in English and in the language
of the advertisement and in letters of a conspicuous size. If
the advertisement is by radio or television, the statement may
be modified, but must include substantially the same message.
The notice must include the fees that a notary public may charge
and the following statement:
"I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY LICENSED TO PRACTICE LAW IN
TEXAS AND MAY NOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE OR ACCEPT FEES FOR LEGAL
- The notary public may not use the phrase "notario publico"
or "notario" to advertise notary services.
- Complaints that advertisements are lacking the legally required
information, or contain the above unauthorized terms, can be made
to the Secretary of State's office without filing an official
complaint form. Promotional materials and/or pictures of the allegedly
illegal advertisement may be mailed anonymously to: Secretary
of State, Statutory Documents, P.O. Box 13375, Austin, Texas 78711-3375.
Practice of Law Committee. In cases of the alleged unauthorized
practice of law along the Texas-Mexico border, a Mexican resident
may complain to the Texas Supreme Court's Unauthorized Practice
of Law (UPL) Committee. This committee takes action in cases concerning
the provision of immigration and naturalization services by a
non-lawyer. An individual may file a complaint with the Unauthorized
Practice of Law Committee at http://www.txuplc.org/ or may request a complaint form by calling Tanya Beckham, Office
of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, State Bar of Texas, at 877-953-5535.
* Prior to April 1, 1999, a complainant's identity would remain
confidential. However, the Texas Supreme Court has rendered a
decision making the UPL Committee subject to Rule 12 of the Texas
Rules of Judicial Administration, which subjects the identity
of the complainant to public disclosure.
- If the UPL Committee finds that the notary practiced law illegally,
the matter may be referred to the Secretary of State's office.
Based on the findings of the UPL Committee, the Secretary of State's
office may discipline the notary public, including the revocation
of the notary's commission. In the course of the Secretary of
State's investigation based on the recommendation of the UPL Committee,
the identity of the complainant need not be known by the Secretary
- If a Mexican resident complains only to the Secretary of State's
office or in concurrence with a complaint to the UPL Committee,
the accused notary public can obtain the identity of the complainant
from the Secretary of State's office in accordance with a 1989
Attorney General's opinion. However, the Secretary of State's
office is not required legally and does not routinely report the
names of any complainants on any matter to the Immigration and
Naturalization Service or any other local, state or federal agency.
- Attorney General's Office. The Consumer Protection Division
of the Attorney General's Office will take complaints concerning
the unauthorized practice of law when a consumer has been injured
by such practice. The action is brought as a deceptive trade practice
under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The Attorney General
also will initiate a complaint on its own if it determines that
such a practice has occurred. While the Attorney General may be
able to retain some degree of confidentiality during its investigation,
at some point the identity of the complainant must become public
- Criminal Offenses. Effective September 1, 2001, a violation
of § 406.017 of the Government Code, concerning a notary public’s
representation as an attorney, becomes a criminal offense. A first-time
conviction is a Class A misdemeanor. A subsequent conviction is
a felony of the third degree. In addition, notaries public are
"public officers." As such, they can be charged with "official
misconduct" under the Penal Code. Criminal complaints may be filed
with the District or County Attorney, as appropriate. Additionally,
some violations by notaries may also be handled as deceptive trade
practices under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (see above
under Attorney General's Office).