NEW YORK (AP) — An appeals court judge who was the first African-American woman appointed to New York’s highest court has been found dead on the shore of the Hudson River off Manhattan.
Police say the body of 65-year-old Sheila Abdus-Salaam was discovered just before 2 p.m. Wednesday along the river’s shore near Harlem, one day after being reported missing.
Police say her body showed no obvious signs of trauma. The medical examiner is to determine the exact cause of death.
Abdus-Salaam was appointed to the state’s Court of Appeals by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013. She graduated from Barnard College and received her law degree from Columbia School of Law.
Cuomo released a statement calling her a “pioneer” and a “force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come.”
The New York Court of Appeals released the following statement Wednesday night:
The New York Court of Appeals was saddened to learn today of the passing of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a most beloved colleague since she joined the Court in May 2013. 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. The people of New York can be grateful for her distinguished public service. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, and we will miss her greatly.
The New York Bar Associated also released a statement:
“We are saddened to learn of the death of Sheila Abdus-Salaam, associate judge of the New York State Court of Appeals,” said New York State Bar Association President Claire P. Gutekunst.
“Having grown up poor in a family of seven children in Washington, D.C., she rose to become one of the seven judges in New York’s highest court, where her intellect, judicial temperament and wisdom earned her wide respect.
“In 2016, she was recognized with the Stanley H. Fuld Award, one of the Association’s most prestigious awards. It is named for the late chief judge, who served 27 years on the Court of Appeals, six as chief judge.
“At the time, Justice Abdus-Salaam said that, as a judge, she listens and wants people to know they are being heard ‘whether I agree with them or not.’
“Listening to the voices seeking justice was a hallmark of her remarkable career as an attorney and as a judge.
“On behalf of the New York State Bar Association, I extend our condolences to her husband, family and friends in the legal community.”