I declare, you did not swear! When is an affidavit just
an unsworn statement?
“Counsel, I have reviewed the documents you have submitted, and the
affidavit you have filed is not sworn or affirmed. According to the notarial certificate, it is an acknowledgment. We will have to re-set this matter.
How soon will you be able to obtain a valid affidavit?”
An uneasy silence cues the crickets in the courtroom. The attorney
stands while nervously adjusting his tie and responds, “None of the other
judges have ever noticed this or said anything.”
Just when is an affidavit really just an unsworn statement?
Affidavits, verified petitions, and written sworn statements are
required by statute or rule in many cases. 1 To transform ordinary written
statements into sworn statements, “notary language” is used. However,
using the wrong “notary language” may cause an affidavit to be nothing
more than an unsworn statement that may be rejected by the court or
challenged by an opposing party.
Arizona notaries public are authorized by statute to perform four different notarial acts (A.R.S. § 41-313). When dealing with documents, it
is important to understand the difference between two of these four:
Jurats and Acknowledgments. Both require the signer to appear in person before the notary, provide a sufficient form of personal identification
(driver’s license, passport), and produce the document to the notary.
For acknowledgments, the signer advises the notary that he or she has
signed the document (§ 41-311( 1)). The typical notary language for an
acknowledgment usually reads:
Acknowledged before me this _______ day of _____________, 20___.
The signer is not required to be sworn, to state if the document’s contents are true, or if they even agree with or understand the document.
The signer does not have to have read the document! All the
signer does is tell (acknowledge to) the notary that he/she has
signed the document.
The jurat is the notarial act that turns ordinary statements
into sworn (or affirmed) statements (affidavits). For a jurat, the
signer takes an oath or affirms as to the truthfulness of a
document’s contents (§ 41-311( 5)). An oath is used when the
signer is swearing to a supreme being (for example, God). An
affirmation is used when the signer does not believe in a
supreme being or does not want to swear to a supreme being. 2
Jurats require a signer to sign in the notary’s presence. No
pre-signing is permitted, and because the signer is swearing or
affirming to the document’s truthfulness, the document cannot contain any blanks and cannot be altered later. Jurats are
easily recognized by this language:
Subscribed and sworn (or affirmed) to before me this
_______ day of _____________, 20___.
Because a jurat provides much more than an acknowledg-
8 ARIZONA ATTORNEY MAY 2015 www.azbar.org/AZAttorney
CIVIL PRACTICE POINTERS by Terri L. Clarke
Terri L. Clarke has been a
Commissioner with Maricopa County
Superior Court since 2010. She has
been an Arizona Notary Public for over
25 years and has lectured and presented
notary law topics at various training and
seminar events. She is currently
assigned to a Probate calendar.
ment, it may satisfy in place of an acknowl-
edgment. 3 The reverse is not true: Do not
use an acknowledgment when a jurat is
needed, otherwise an affidavit will end up as
an unsworn document.
If some is good, more is not better.
Some documents combine jurat and
acknowledgment language. These notary-
language “combos” usually read
“Subscribed and sworn to and Affirmed
before me this ________ day of _________,
20__”. However, because jurats require
the signer to personally appear before the
notary, provide sufficient proof of identity,
swear or affirm as to the truthfulness of the
document’s contents, and then actually sign
the document in the notary’s presence,
why tack on an acknowledgment (where the
signer merely states they signed the docu-
ment)? It almost seems akin to having a wit-
ness sworn in by the courtroom clerk and
then “pinky swear” for good measure.
There are no jurat/acknowledgment
combos mentioned or authorized in A.R.S.
§ 41-313 and no examples of such in the
Arizona Notary Public Reference Manual.
This combo may have been crafted by a
practitioner who didn’t understand the
difference between jurats and acknowledg-
ments and combined both in a misguided
attempt to cover all possibilities.
The Arizona Notary Public Reference
Manual (available from the Arizona
Secretary of State at www.azsos.gov/
offers many examples of proper notarial
act language. Free training for Arizona
Notaries Public is also offered by the
Arizona Secretary of State’s Office; training
schedules and signups are available online.
I swear! AZ AT
Welcome to a new column that provides tips
from judges on civil practice. If there are
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column—write to email@example.com.
Words To Swear By
1. The term “affidavit” is used here to refer to
affidavits, verified petitions, verifications,
and sworn statements.
2. Arizona Notary Public Reference Manual,
Arizona Secretary of State, January 2015
3. State v. Solis, 236 Ariz. 242, ¶ 9, 338 P.3d
982 (App. 2014).