Obituary: Joseph G. Kanfoush / Attorney believed in seeking justice, individual rights for all

July 16, 1942 - Aug. 2, 2011

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Attorney Joseph G. Kanfoush dedicated his professional life to ensuring that everyone in the criminal justice system was treated fairly.

"He was a staunch advocate of individual rights -- no matter whose rights, no matter what the person was accused of," said his son, Joseph G. Kanfoush Jr. "Due process was paramount."

Previously diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, Mr. Kanfoush, 69, died Tuesday at St. Clair Hospital.

He grew up in Brookline, attended the University of Dayton for undergraduate studies and earned his law degree from Duquesne University.

In 2003, he was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Kanfoush dedicated his practice to criminal defense and often concentrated on drug cases. In addition to his practice in Pittsburgh, he also represented clients in Florida and Arizona.

"He was always available to his clients," said friend and colleague, Edward Friedman.

Fellow lawyer Paul Gettleman agreed.

"He cared. He treated his clients with respect," Mr. Gettleman said.

"He would do whatever was necessary to see that his client received justice."

Mr. Kanfoush was in the hospital for two weeks before he died. During that time, a client visited his family there to express gratitude for the work Mr. Kanfoush did for him, said Mr. Kanfoush's sister, JoAnn Robb.

"He was remarkable," she said. "I believed in him so much."

Mr. Kanfoush was described as being full of life, with a great courtroom presence.

"He didn't practice law out of a book. He practiced it out of his heart," his son said.

Joseph Kanfoush Jr. described his father as being deeply practical. But there was another side, as well.

"He was always looking deeper," his son said. "His heart was always searching for that missing element you couldn't prove."

The elder Mr. Kanfoush had always wanted to work for NASA, his son said. "But he didn't do well enough in math."

Still, he attended the very last launch of the space shuttle last month -- after having attended the very first one 30 years ago.

"In a way, it underscored that he was saying goodbye to an era there," Mr. Kanfoush Jr. said. "And perhaps to some things in his own life."

Mr. Kanfoush enjoyed sports, his son said, and was at the Steelers game when Franco Harris made the Immaculate Reception.

In addition to his son and sister, Mr. Kanfoush is survived by another sister, Cheryl Kanfoush of Green Tree, and one granddaughter. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Nicole Marie Kanfoush.

Visitation will be held today from 12 to 8 p.m. at the William Slater II Funeral Service at 1650 Greentree Road in Scott. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Margaret of Scotland Church.

Memorial contributions may be made to Magee-Womens Foundation for the Baylor and Hudson Robb Prematurity Research Fund at Magee-Womens Foundation, 3339 Ward St. Pittsburgh, PA 15213.


Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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