Rules for Signature Stamps

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Rather than manually affixing a signature to sundry pieces of paper, government officials – and those in positions of the kind of authority that requires the frequent signing of similar or identical documents – streamline the process with the help of stamps. There are many rules to be aware of.

Rather than manually affixing a signature to sundry pieces of paper, government officials – and those in positions of the kind of authority that requires the frequent signing of similar or identical documents – streamline the process with the help of stamps. There are various rules governing the use of signature stamps to avoid the approval of documents that would not actually pass the review process by the authorized signer. These regulations cover not only the person whose name appears on the signature stamp but also those authorized to use the stamp.

What Can be Stamped?

Depending on the jurisdiction, judges and commissioners define the scope of documents to which clerks and support staff may affix a stamped signature without piece-by-piece approval. A good example is the Utah Court System, which allows clerks – who have received a judge’s or commissioner’s preapproval – to signature-stamp some bail bonds, bench warrants, uncontested civil orders for dismissal, orders to show cause, orders to take a defendant into custody, summonses and selected other orders. Frequently, judges or commissioners direct support staff on a case-by-case basis when they wish to extend the rules for signature stamp use to other often-used documents as well.

Who Is Accountable for the Stamp's Use?

A clerk who receives permission to use a signature stamp on behalf of a person in authority must account for the proper usage of the instrument. To this end, various jurisdictions require a clerk of court to personally sign off underneath a signature stamp to prove who placed it there. If a document falls outside the generally acceptable use of a signature stamp, but the clerk nevertheless stamps it, she must sign her name beneath the stamp and also indicate that she affixed the stamped signature with prior authorization. In some business settings, written rules for signature stamp usage protect authorized officials from legal ramifications associated with fraud committed by a dishonest clerk. While the business entity may still be liable civilly, the official will likely not have to face a criminal prosecution.

What are the Limitations on Use?

Some professions may not use signature stamps because each document an official signs requires a personal review. A good example is the Utah real estate appraiser who may not allow clerks to sign appraisal reports with a signature stamp. It is noteworthy that an appraiser does have the right to delegate the signing of a document to another person, but even in this instance the clerk must sign the report by hand and indicate that his signature functions in lieu of the official appraiser. Moreover, a notice underneath the clerk’s handwritten signature must explain that the signatory has official approval to validate the document.

Are Signature Stamps Falling Out of Use?

Signature stamps may be falling out of use due to the rise of electronic signatures. Security is a real concern with signature stamps, since the crime of embezzlement becomes very easy when someone is permitted to legally bind a company to a document without a physical signature. Showing commitment with an e-signature is a lot more secure. The process can be set up to ensure that only an authorized person can enter a PIN and e-sign the document. This means the signature is kept trackable and tamper-proof, so the authenticity of the signature is easier to prove.

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About the Author

Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.