Serving Barack Obama: A Private Citizen

When Barack Obama was President, he had to be served legal documents by certified mail.  When he left office, he moved into this beautiful 8,000 square foot brick home on Belmont Street, overlooking Rock Creek Park. Since he was no longer President, all legal documents had to be served to him personally or his designated authorized agent.

I received a United States District Court summons for service on Mr. Obama at his D.C. mansion.  There were concrete barriers set up 100 yards from his residence, and a uniformed Secret Service agent parked in his car between the traffic-controlling barriers.

I informed the officer that I had a summons for Barack Obama and would need to either hand it to him directly or have a person authorized by Mr. Obama to accept service on his behalf.  The agent then asked for my I.D., took down my information, and then asked to read the documents to be served on Mr. Obama.

The agent went to his vehicle, made a phone call, and then informed me that I would have to serve the documents at Mr. Obama's office in Washington, DC.  I asked for its location, and he said, "Google it."

I contacted my office, and they located Obama's business address at 1250 24th St., NW, Washington, DC 20037.  I went to that location and spoke with the receptionist explaining the purpose of my visit.  She said that unless I had a contact person's name in Barack's office, she could not help me.

I asked to speak to an Obama representative.  A few minutes later, a woman approached who would not give her name, and the same discussion took place.  She suggested I return to Mr. Obama's home and get the name of a contact person in his D.C. office.

Since I had a Catch 22 situation at Obama's residence, I decided to go to the Secret Service main office located at 950 H St NW, Washington, DC 20223.  At that location, I asked for a supervisor, and a man dressed sharply in a beige suit approached and said he was a supervisor.  I asked for his name, but he refused to provide it.  I recounted the day's events at both Obama's residence and his office and asked if he could assist in obtaining for me a contact name at Obama's office.  He said, "I can't help you." Then, he turned and walked away.

I returned to the west barrier at Mr. Obama's residence and informed the officer of my need for a contact person's name.

The agent contacted his superior, and a few minutes later, his supervisor arrived.  I informed the supervisor that if they could not provide a contact person's name who could accept service on Mr. Obama's behalf, we would need to set up a stakeout at both the west and east barriers and serve Mr. Obama as he exited.  The agent said, "That is NOT going to happen."

I read him the text of 18 U.S. Code 1501:

"Whoever knowingly and willfully obstructs, resists, or opposes any officer of the United States, or other person duly authorized, in serving, or attempting to serve or execute, any legal or judicial writ or process of any court of the United States, or United States magistrate judge; or

Whoever assaults, beats, or wounds any officer or other person duly authorized, knowing him to be such officer, or other person so duly authorized, in serving or executing any such writ, rule, order, process, warrant, or other legal or judicial writ or process — Shall, except as otherwise provided by law, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."

The Secret Service Agent then quoted the U.S. Code regarding the interference with a Secret Service motorcade and informed me that if I approached the motorcade, they would arrest me.

I said, "It looks like we have a problem then.  You know that I have the legal right and responsibility to serve this paper on Mr. Obama, and by law, you are not allowed to "obstruct" me.   I will go to his vehicle when it approaches the barrier and serve him, you will arrest me, and I will sue you."

The Secret Service officer returned to his vehicle and called his supervisor. A few minutes later, Agent Taylor, dressed in a well-tailored brown suit, walked toward me from the Obama residence. 

Agent Taylor approached me and said that I would not be allowed to serve Mr. Obama. I informed him that unless they provided the name of the person who could accept Mr. Obama's service, we would necessarily have to stake out at both barricades and attempt service when he drove by.

Agent Taylor informed me that they would arrest me if I attempted to serve Mr. Obama.  I responded, "Then, I will see you in court, and we'll let the judge decide."  And I then quoted U.S. Code 1501.

Angrily, Agent Taylor asked to see the court documents.  He read them and insisted that the summons was not legitimate because the court was in California.  I informed him it was a United States District Court located in California.

He again said the papers were not legitimate, because the judge's signature was not on the summons. I informed him that Judges do not sign summons' and pointed out the court clerk's stamped signature on the document.

We spent several minutes debating the legitimacy of the legal papers, and then he asked for my identification.  Agent Taylor took down all of my information, called someone on his cell phone, and instructed them to run my information through their database.

Over the next hour, the same discussion took place with several supervising agents who came to the scene, including two agents in civilian clothes who identified themselves as working for the Secret Service Public Relations Department. 

Agent Bukin then arrived and introduced himself, and after a brief, pleasant discussion, he took my business card and said he would try to get a name for me and call me with the information.

The next day, a Secret Service agent called my wife and my office manager and asked about my mental stability, or if I was abusive.  Fortunately, I had my phone video camera running during all of my interviews and, in listening to them again, confirmed that I was calm and reasonable in all of my conversations with the Secret Service.  I could find nothing in my conversation with them that made me appear unstable.

I called the Secret Service agent and reminded him that my attempt to serve Barack Obama was lawful, he had abused his power by calling my wife and office, and that I would be filing a complaint.

I also reminded him that during all of our discussions, I maintained civility, and I had recorded those discussions.  All they had to do was provide me the name of an individual at Mr. Obama's office who would accept service.

The next day I returned to the barricade at Obama's residence. I informed the Secret Service officers that if they didn't provide a contact name for private citizen Barack Obama, I would immediately begin my stakeout.  I also said we would be notifying all of the press organizations so they could televise my arrest for attempting to serve the former President.

The officer made a phone call and passed along my message.  Shortly after that, the Secret Service provided me with the name of the person who would accept service for Barack Obama at his office.  Thirty minutes later, I served his representative at his 24th Street office.

Sometimes, you have to take a stand and call their bluff. 

What amazes me is the number of hours wasted by the numerous Secret Service officers who interviewed and investigated me when all they had to do was provide me the name of the person who would accept service on behalf of the former President.

On the other hand, the hours I spent resolving this case was billable and paid by my client.

-Tony Snesko, CE0

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