Ilan Zur, a member of Rodef Shalom Congregation, is hoping to fill one of eight open seats at the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. With the May 18 primary approaching, Zur hopes his 22-year tenure in the District Attorney’s office will help propel him to the bench.
“It’s really about just having the experience that I have at this point,” said Zur. “I think I’m ready to take on such an important role.”
After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with a bachelor’s degree in industrial management and a minor in architecture, Zur attended the University of Pittsburgh Law School. Several months after his 1998 graduation from Pitt, Zur began working as a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office. Since 2013, Zur has served as deputy district attorney, and now supervises the office’s violent crimes and narcotics division.
Having tried hundreds of cases, Zur said he’s developed a keen perspective on the judicial process.
“What I’ve seen over the course of my career is that not everything needs to be criminalized,” he said. “I’ve seen way too much come to the courthouse that should be resolved in other means. Someone doesn’t have to have a criminal record for certain conduct: specifically, nonviolent stuff and also first-time offender type situations. … I recognize when someone needs to be punished, and you know they are a danger to society, but I also recognize when someone deserves a second chance.”
Zur, 48, is a married father of three. He was born in New York City to an Iraqi mother and German father who’d both lived in Israel. While Zur was still an infant, his family returned to Israel, but due to his father’s work in the travel industry, the family eventually moved back to the States. Zur grew up in New York City, and still loves it there, but has considered Pittsburgh home for nearly three decades, he said.
Zur credits his 22 years at the District Attorney’s office with giving him an opportunity to improve life in Pittsburgh.
“I’ve been a homicide prosecutor for most of my career and now I’m in management, but what I really enjoy doing there is the trial work,” he said. “It’s just gratifying. Helping families get closure, and seeing how much it means to them — that’s really what has motivated my career.”
Zur also is actively involved in educating the public on legal issues. Through his office, he has delivered several talks about Pennsylvania’s “castle doctrine” (or defense of habitation law) and the ability to use force in the face of imminent danger. As part of his campaign, Zur also holds a weekly Saturday evening forum in which legal topics and the history of the court are discussed.
Zur has enjoyed speaking to the public and sharing information on individuals’ rights, he said. All of these activities, including running for judge, are about public service, “and that’s what motivates me.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com