West Virginia Record

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Is House Judiciary Chairman Tim Manchin 'too smart for his own britches?'

By The West Virginia Record | Jan 30, 2014


People used to say a crafty person was “too smart for his own good.” A haughty person was “too big for his breeches.” Eventually, the two expressions got jumbled up and became “too smart for his own britches.”

This hybrid idiom made no literal sense. How could a person’s IQ possibly affect the waist-size and leg-length of his slacks? Would Munchkins patronize the Tall Man’s Shop if they happened to be members of Mensa? Would dimwitted NBA players wear Buster Brown children’s clothes?

However nonsensical, the expression nevertheless managed to capture perfectly the audacious overreach of persons whose self-esteem far outpaced their merit and led them to believe that they could outfox everyone around them. And we’ve all encountered people like that, haven’t we?

We don’t know Tim Manchin’s actual measurements, but his performance Tuesday during a meeting of West Virginia’s House Judiciary Committee suggests he may have outgrown his current trousers.

The committee Manchin chairs heard comments, pro and con, on proposed House Bill 4001, the so-called “Fair Claims Act” -- which, like its prototype, the federal False Claims Act, would provide substantial monetary awards for whistleblowers who bring successful FCA lawsuits against private enterprises allegedly defrauding a government agency.

It sounds like such a good idea, and yet several thoughtful and distinguished persons adamantly opposed it -- in the few minutes allotted to each of them.

Concerned that the bill would encourage “litigation for profit” and have an adverse impact on the business climate in our state, representatives of the West Virginia Business and Industry Council, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Defense Trial Counsel of West Virginia all spoke against it for five minutes each.

Their comments were preceded, however, by a 90-minute-plus presentation from a group supporting the bill and hoping to profit from it.

Sponsors of the bill include at least four personal injury lawyers, one of them a too-smart guy with a rip in his pants.

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