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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.