On thy bounty

by The West Virginia Record |
Jan. 12, 2007, 3:00am

We have a name we call private citizens who track alleged criminal offenders for cash.

It's called "bounty hunter."

That's the only way we can figure to describe Barry Hill, the Wheeling plaintiff's attorney currently stalking drugmakers Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceutica in search of his own personal payday.

By refusing to intervene in the hunt, the State Supreme Court ruled this week that Hill's expedition would continue. That is, so long as he retains the blessing of the her political beneficiary, Attorney General Darrell McGraw.

Armed with a law degree and decked out in a business suit, Hill doesn't really fit the part. But he and other such Special Assistant Attorneys General, bring a dedication to the job that would rival Duane "Dog" Chapman.

To the uninitiated, Chapman is America's most notable bounty hunter since Boba Fett. Famously long-haired, tattooed and invariably wrapped in sunglasses, he stars in a reality TV series showcasing his own vigilantism for hire. And just like Hill, he picks up his own expenses all the while, and only gets paid when the boss gets a scalp.

But out of respect to "Dog" and his fellow skip tracers, that's where the similarities end.

Though the same in theory, the task of the traditional bounty hunter is abundantly more of a challenge. Mr. Chapman and his ilk don't countenance their subjects knowing the cavalry (a.k.a. the state of West Virginia) is on their side. They cannot threaten to litigate them endlessly into submission, or issue ornery press releases that will threaten their stock price.

Moreover, the Dogs of the world don't make out like brethren in business suits.

The latter toil for a reward in the single thousands. That's pocket change to folks like Mr. Hill, who don't get out of bed unless it's to tee up a Purdue Pharma-esque jackpot in the single millions.

With that kind of price on their heads, its no surprise that businesses are thinking twice about setting foot in West Virginia these days.

The Supreme Court might have passed, but that's no excuse for our elected representatives. How about taking action to take back law enforcement from the mercenaries this legislative session?

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