Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African-American female associate judge of New York State Court of Appeals, was found dead in the Hudson river last night.
Judge Abdus-Salaam’s body was found floating in Upper Manhattan. She was fully clothed and showed no physical wounds on her body.
“Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all. As the first African American woman to be appointed to the state’s court of appeals, she was a pioneer. Through her writings, her wisdom and her unshakable moral compass, she was a force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come,” said governor Andrew Cuomo, who appointed Abdus-Salaam in 2013, reports The Guardian.
Abdus-Salaam was only 65 years old, and had been serving the New York Supreme Court since 1993.
The Columbia Law School graduate was recognized as the first female Muslim judge in the United States. The judge left behind more than just a legal career, but a legacy. In a statement on her NY Courts biography, Governor Cuomo said in a press release,
“Rising from working class roots to serve for decades on the bench of the New York State Supreme Court, Justice Abdus-Salaam has a deep understanding of the everyday issues facing New Yorkers, as well as the complex legal issues that come before the state’s highest court.”
Abdus-Salaam’s interest in the law started when she was in elementary school and was visited by Frankie Muse Freeman.
“She was riveting . . . she was doing what I wanted to do: using the law to help people,” said Abdus-Salaam in regards to the civil rights attorney.
“Her personal warmth, uncompromising sense of fairness, and bright legal mind were an inspiration to all of us who had the good fortune to know her. Sheila’s smile could light up the darkest room,” Said colleague Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.