There was no clandestine surveillance, no hiding behind bushes or in a parked car.
Daniel Portnoy says he walked up the driveway and knocked on the front door. The homeowner opened the door.
Portnoy and the man chatted for a minute and parted ways. Mission accomplished. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. accepted service of a U.S. District Court summons at home, Portnoy says.
“Obviously this guy was outstanding. He could have quoted legal scripture to me for a week and a half,” Portnoy recalls of his trip to the Roberts home in Chevy Chase, Md., the night of Jan. 4 about 8 p.m. “He was very respectful in a situation where he didn’t have to be.”
Portnoy, owner of D.C. Legal Process, was serving papers in atheist Michael Newdow’s challenge of the words “so help me God” in the oath that President-elect Barack Obama will take next week. Obama has stated that he will use the words when he is sworn in.
Roberts was surprised he was being served at home, Portnoy says. But the process server had to reach Roberts in his individual capacity, in addition to serving a Roberts representative at the Supreme Court. Justice Department lawyers Brad Rosenberg and Eric Beckenhauer are representing Roberts.
Portnoy says he had a much easier time than when he tried to serve then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in an unrelated matter. A security officer stopped Portnoy before he made it to Rumsfeld’s door. Roberts didn’t ask for identification.
Portnoy says Roberts ended up signing a sheet that acknowledges receipt of a summons. Most lawyers, he notes, don't mess with the document. “I made a joke that this was going in my memoirs,” Portnoy says. Roberts chuckled. “Definitely a gentleman,” Portnoy says.