In Many New York Courts, Notarized Documents Will No Longer Be Necessary
For many years, litigants in New York have been required to have most of the documents being submitted to court notarized, particularly when filing affidavits. All of this will change beginning January 1, 2024, when a new bill takes effect which will permit people in civil cases in New York to submit affirmations instead of affidavits.
Affirmations, which in New York State are governed by Rule 2106 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules (“CPLR”), are documents which contain sworn statements but are not required to be signed before a notary. Currently, affirmations can only be made and submitted by attorneys, physicians, osteopaths and dentists. The new bill amends and expands CPLR § 2106 to allow for affirmations made by all New York State litigants in civil cases. The right to submit affirmations has been the law in federal courts for years, which have permitted declarations under penalty of perjury. With the passing of this law, New York is falling in line with federal standards and the courts of 20 other states.
There were several rationales offered by legislators for the new law, which include that there was an undue burden on (1) unrepresented parties who did not have easy access to a notary, (2) parties who reside in rural areas, (3) parties with limited means who would be required to take time off from work to obtain a notary, and (4) parties who are in the hospital who are unable to travel to a notary. The discussion to amend the law became more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic, when getting documents notarized became even more onerous.
One of the sponsors of the bill, Assemblyman Charles Lavine, stated that “By allowing litigants in civil cases to swear to a statement under penalty of perjury without having to notarize the document, this law removes significant barriers to access to justice especially in housing, civil and family court matters. I applaud the governor for enacting this law and believe it will help New Yorkers by relieving them from an undue financial and cumbersome burden.”
This article is intended as a general discussion of these issues only and is not to be considered legal advice or relied upon. For more information, please contact Jeffrey Blankstein who counsels clients on estate and retirement planning, individual taxation, real estate and litigation. Mr. Blankstein is admitted to practice law in New York.