If the Suit Fits, File It

A federal case in which Alan Adaschik, mild-mannered bureaucrat, sues the entire U.S. government over the WTO

Adaschik fears that the WTO will gradually usurp power from the U.S. "The reach of this organization potentially is enormous," he says. "As time goes on, I think you're gonna see them become more and more powerful and more and more effective."

Adaschik's arguments are not completely absurd. The matter of U.S. sovereignty was repeatedly raised during Congressional debates on the GATT accords, and some from the opposite end of the political spectrum say Adaschik makes a few good points. "The arguments in and of themselves are interesting," says Patrick Woodall, a researcher at Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch in Washington, one of the foremost liberal critics of the WTO.

"I'm not a person who has a particularly conspiratorial view of the world, but this stuff is pretty scary," adds Marco Trbovich, a spokesman for United Steelworkers of America, about the WTO. United Steelworkers has filed a lawsuit arguing that the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a treaty and therefore should have been required to pass by a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

Power to the people! Alan Adaschik is hauling Congress and President Clinton into court (on your behalf)
Sherri Cohen
Power to the people! Alan Adaschik is hauling Congress and President Clinton into court (on your behalf)

Unfortunately for Adaschik, his suit, according to experts in constitutional law, has about as much chance of ultimately succeeding as Vince Foster does of coming back from the dead. The lawsuit will almost certainly be thrown out on technical grounds, regardless of the merits of his arguments. In past cases the Supreme Court has ruled that a person must show that he has been personally injured in order to bring suit against the government -- and Adaschik will certainly have a difficult time doing that.

"I think it's a sure loser," says Marc Rohr, a professor at Nova Southeastern University's law school.

Elizabeth Cabraser, co-chair of the American Bar Association's committee on class actions and derivative suits, agrees. "He has to show some injury or damage to himself, and typically you don't suffer injury when you just don't like something Congress has done," she says.

Adaschik maintains that he's been plenty injured. "I no longer live in a democratic republic," he argues. "I was born into a nation that was a democratic republic, and now that form of government has been denied to me and taken away by the unbridled trampling of the Constitution."

Cabraser notes another significant obstacle as well. The fact that Adaschik has filed the case as a class-action suit on behalf of all American citizens means that he will bear the burden -- and, more significantly, the expense -- of notifying every single person in the country. "You can't be held hostage in a class-action suit against your will," she notes. "In a situation where you've decided to represent everyone in the country, you may not want to get what you ask for."

Adaschik has few illusions about his chance for success. He dreamily romanticizes the prospect of bringing down the WTO but then quickly brings himself back down to earth. "Let me put it this way," Adaschik says. "I have quote, unquote, God on my side. I know I'm right. Whether I'm successful or not is another matter."

In anticipation of defeat, Adaschik has crafted a cynical replacement for the Pledge of Allegiance. All together now:

I pledge allegiance to the banner

Of the World Trade Organization

And to the Money for which it stands,

Gleaned from many Nations, Subjugated,

With liberty and justice

For the rich and powerful.

May god help us and forgive our

Congressional Representatives.

Contact Paul Demko at his e-mail address:


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