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Home / Supplements and Special Sections / WJA 2018 / Litigation Practitioner: Jill Kanatzar

Litigation Practitioner: Jill Kanatzar

Dollar Burns & Becker

From her early career with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Child Abuse and Sex Crimes unit to her present role assisting victims of abuse in nursing homes, group homes, schools and other institutional environments, Jill Kanatzar has built a career around serving those whose voices need her help to be heard.kanatzar-jill

People have questioned how she has the wherewithal to take on such challenging cases, but from Kanatzar’s perspective, the real strength comes from the people she represents.

“It’s easy for me to stand up and do it — it didn’t happen to me,” said Kanatzar, a partner at Dollar Burns & Becker since 1998. “To see these women and children stand up and be able to go through the process is amazing. We’ve got the greatest judicial process in the world, but yet it’s still incredibly hard on the victims. And yet, victim after victim I’ve seen been able to withstand it. It’s admirable.”

Shortly after starting to work with the prosecutor’s office, Kanatzar knew she wanted to stay in an area of law in which she could represent living victims. She said she appreciated being part of their healing process as they stood up to their assailants. In particular, she recalls the last case she prosecuted, involving an 87-year-old woman who was raped and sodomized in her own home.

“It was probably the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen as an attorney to watch her walk through that courtroom, get up on the stand and face a very young, large man who came in her home and did brutal things to her,” Kanatzar said. “She was probably the strongest victim I ever had testify.”

Kanatzar served on the Missouri Supreme Court’s Regional Disciplinary Committee from 2008 to 2016 and as president of the board of directors of the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City from 2010 to 2012. She was appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court Advisory Committee in 2016.

Kanatzar, who is married to Judge James F. Kanatzar of the 16th Circuit Court in Jackson County, also is the mother of two teenage boys. During a five-year sabbatical from her firm to raise her sons, she kept her legal skills sharp by working with Operation Breakthrough, a nonprofit social-services agency serving children of the working poor, where she handled legal matters for the children’s guardians.

She said she hopes more firms follow the example of Dollar Burns & Becker by supporting working women who are both parents and professionals.

“So often women who are attorneys enter the workforce and think they can never step back and raise their kids and be a bigger part of their family,” Kanatzar said. “I found a firm that is flexible with having a female attorney who was a mother. I could do both and feel like I was doing both well.”