A notary public's job is as an impartial witness in the signing of important documents. It involves identifying an individual, by personal knowledge or by using proper identification, and confirming the individual signs a document of his own free will. This is a notarization or notorial act, according to the National Notary Association.
While notaries often work in banks or private industry, their commission as a notary comes from the state government. In most of the United States, the secretary of state appoints individuals as notaries. The state expects the notaries to follow written state law and avoid exercising their own personal judgment on an action. Most notaries are not lawyers, and interpreting the law for a client is a judicial act, which reaches beyond the job description of the notary.
The nature of the notary's position requires that he is impartial in the documents he notarizes. If a notary has a personal interest in a situation, he is not to notarize the document. This same impartiality requires that notaries do not refuse to serve any individual due to religion, race, nationality, sexual orientation or politics. Although some institutions indicate they provide notary services only for customers, the National Notary Association says a notary is not to refuse to notarize a document due to an individual's status as a non-customer.