Often, power is granted to deputies to take acknowledgments on behalf of principal officers. Where the statute provides that an acknowledgment may be taken before a deputy, it is generally proper for the deputy to sign the principal’s name and then add his or her own name.[i]
Most statutes confer the authority to act in an official capacity on the principal officer alone, or, if such statutes recognize the appointment of deputies, the deputies are regarded as the mere private agents of the principal. Thus no statute considers deputies as independent public officers deriving independent authority from the law. The deputy has no inherent power, but only derivative authority to take acknowledgement. Hence, law stipulates that the execution should be made in the name of the principal alone or in the name of the principal by the deputy.
However, in some states, the deputy is recognized as an independent public officer, and is authorized by law to do any act which his/her principal might do. In such a case, the authority is conferred on the deputy by operation of law and is vested with the deputy in his/her independent capacity. For instance, in Wilkerson v. Dennison, 113 Tenn. 237, 240 (Tenn. 1904), the court upheld a certificate made and signed by the deputy in the name of the principal without mention of the deputy. This is because deputy clerks of the county courts of Tennessee are authorized to certify the acknowledgment of deeds in both the names of their principals and themselves as deputies.
Under either situations, a special deputy is regarded as the mere private agent of the principal, and the deputy’s authority would, unless otherwise provided by statute, be properly exercised in the name of the principal.
[i] Halbouer v. Cuenin, 45 Colo. 507 (Colo. 1909), Caffee v. State, 11 Okla. Crim. 263 (Okla. Crim. App. 1915).