The ARDC Hearing Board has recommended a six month suspension for a lawyer who falsely notarized a quit claim deed and then, when he received an inquiry from the ARDC, falsely informed the ARDC that the signatures of his clients were genuine. The panel explains:
Rule 8.1(a) provides that a lawyer shall not “knowingly make a false statement of material fact” in connection with a disciplinary matter. We find that Respondent violated Rule 8.1(a) by falsely stating in his letter to the Administrator that the Alcauters appeared at his office and executed the quit claim deed in his presence. Respondent admitted the Alcauters did not execute the deed in his presence and that his statement to the contrary was false. It is also clear this misrepresentation concerned a material fact, as the Administrator was specifically investigating the Alcauters’ charge that their signatures on the deed had been forged. Thus, the only issue with regard to the Rule 8.1(a) charge is whether Respondent knew the statement was false at the time he made it. Although Respondent denied this, we find it was established by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent knowingly gave a false response.” Opinion at 13-14.
The take-away from this case is that the ARDC prosecutes lawyers who as notaries falsely claim a document was signed in their presence. This is an easy violation to prove and can result in painful consequences for the lawyer involved.
If you don’t see the person sign in your presence, do not notarize the document under any circumstances.
Edward X. Clinton, Jr.