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If the Suit Fits, File It

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

Alan Adaschik is waging a battle on behalf of you, the American citizen. All 274 million of you, roughly speaking. A battle, in essence, against the encroaching World Government.

Adaschik is a 56-year-old Davie resident with a wife, an ex-wife, a receding hairline, a yellow Cadillac DeVille, and a job as an accountant in the bureaucracy of the Fort Lauderdale city government. By outward appearance Adaschik is just an average Joe, but he is attempting to accomplish the extraordinary.

On March 3, Adaschik filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court on behalf of all United States citizens. He charges in the 15-page complaint, which he wrote, that Congress and President Clinton have violated the country's Constitution, surrendered its sovereignty, and stripped Americans of their full voting rights.

How exactly have our elected officials committed these atrocities? In short by agreeing to the Uruguay Round of trade talks establishing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and by joining the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Adaschik's opposition to the alphabet-soup international bureaucracies is not unique. The WTO and GATT trade agreements have been assailed from the left and the right. Liberals complain that the WTO is secretive and indifferent to human rights and environmental degradation. Conservatives assail the WTO for fomenting a one-world government and for enabling foreigners to usurp control of the legislative process. This past November, to commemorate a WTO conference in Seattle, thousands of protesters turned the city on its head, blocking streets, and holding downtown hostage.

What's unique in this case is Adaschik's approach. Best as can be determined, he is alone in taking legal action against the government for joining the WTO. "Maybe I'm a Don Quixote tilting at windmills," he says, "but I just don't like somebody imposing something on me, especially when it's done the way this was done."

From his perch in suburban Davie, armed only with a computer, Adaschik is a sometime member of Hillary's vast right-wing conspiracy. He was a vehement supporter of the impeachment of President Clinton, calling last year's Senate trial a "constitutional travesty," and has a penchant for wondering aloud if his physical well-being might be endangered because of his politics. Websites such as www.youdontsay.org (with links that include "Clinton's Body Count") and the Desert Conservative (www.av.qnet.com/~jlund, which claims "Bill Clinton And Al Gore Are Willing To Sacrifice The Lives Of Innocent People To Further Their Agenda Of Destroying The 2nd Amendment!") feature Adaschik's writings.

That said, Adaschik's discourses are more sober-minded deconstructions of the Constitution than emotional vendettas or deranged conspiracy theories. He calls himself a fiscal conservative but social libertarian, eschewing the fundamentalist Christian bomb-throwing of many right-wingers. "Most of what the ultra-right wing subscribes to I reject out of hand," Adaschik claims.

Adaschik's hatred for the WTO is deeply entrenched. When the Uruguay Round accords were passed by Congress in late 1994, essentially enlisting the U.S. in the WTO, he was flummoxed by how little attention the issue got. The purpose of the WTO is to establish rules of trade to which all member nations must adhere, supposedly allowing for open markets and fair competition. But Adaschik saw it as a "world government, improperly and poorly constituted."

He immediately fired off letters to most of the Florida Congressional delegation, Al Gore, the National Rifle Association, and anyone else who would listen to his concerns. He even compiled the correspondence into an unpublished book called While We Sleep.

After getting nowhere with the letter-writing campaign, Adaschik put his ire on hold. But it was provoked again by Clinton's impeachment trial, which he saw as yet another affront to the Constitution in the Senate's failure to convict the President. At a meeting of local conservative activists at the public library in Lighthouse Point early last summer, Adaschik decided to forge ahead with a lawsuit challenging U.S. inclusion in the WTO.

The legal complaint is a repetitive but ably written document. Adaschik is not a lawyer. He relies almost entirely on the Constitution to make his point, referencing only the ancient landmark Supreme Court decision in Marbury v. Madison as a precedent. In establishing the concept of judicial review, the 1803 decision notes that any law deemed "repugnant" to the Constitution "must be discharged."

The crux of Adaschik's argument revolves around the WTO's "dispute settlement body," which was established to arbitrate trade spats between member nations. If, for example, India believes that U.S. price supports for ethanol are a barrier to free trade and not in line with the GATT accords, it can lodge a protest with the WTO. The dispute settlement body will weigh the arguments on each side and make a ruling. If the U.S. were to lose the battle but refuse to drop its ethanol price supports, India would be free to apply trade sanctions.

Adaschik argues that, by allowing the WTO to pass judgment on U.S. policies, Congress and the President have effectively surrendered their duties and therefore the sovereignty of the nation. He also argues that, because U.S. citizens have no say in who sits on the WTO's dispute settlement panel, they have had their voting rights abridged.

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.

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:

paul.demko@newtimesbpb.com


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