Most Honest Attorney Around -- Bar None
New York Post, September 22, 1995
By Mike Pearl
Manhattan lawyer Jay Itkowitz wasn't satisfied with just being honest and saying no to corruption - the crusading ex-newsman also wanted to expose it.
So when a middleman tried to recruit him into what sounded like an insurance fraud, Itkowitz signaled authorities and went undercover in a probe that led to 47 arrests - including 21 lawyers.
"I don't walk away from things that I consider to be wrong," the 46-year-old father of two told The Post. "And that's what this was."
Middleman John Prins told Itkowitz he could help him get a bigger settlement for a client - in return for a cut, prosecutors say.
"Personal injury lawyers like to settle cases quickly without doing much work," one investigator said. "This would have been a golden opportunity for Mr. Itkowitz to get rich quick if he had been corrupt. But Prins picked the wrong lawyer."
Diogenes would have loved Itkowitz - and Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau yesterday hailed him as "an honest lawyer."
But Itkowitz said he couldn't just say "no thanks" and walk away when he sensed "there was a conspiracy and that it was widespread."
Putting on a wire for the DA came naturally to the city's former assistant corporation counsel, who more than 20 years ago was an investigative reporter for the now-defunct Long Island Press.
He said he's proudest of a 1971 story where he helped expose real estate brokers who were cheating the city and the welfare system -- and who ultimately lost their licenses.
Being a lawyer involves the same sense of responsibility, he said.
"I love practicing law because you have the ability to pick battles you want to fight," he said.