Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the United States’ first-ever Muslim woman to serve on the bench, has been found dead in the Hudson River. Abdus-Salaam, 65, was identified by her husband after being found fully clothed in the river, according to the New York Daily News. She had been appointed to the New York Court of Appeals in May 2013 by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The New York Post reports that there are no “obvious signs of trauma or injuries indicating criminality or foul play.” As of now, the cause of death is still unknown.
Jonathan Lippman, who served as the Chief Judge of the Court Appeals from 2009 to 2015, told The Post, “I’m deeply saddened at having lost a dear friend and colleague, and the court has suffered a terrible blow. She was a superb jurist and an even more superb human being. I knew her for many, many years. To some degree, we grew up together in the court. I’ve known her in all her different roles in the court. It’s just so shocking. She was a very gentile, lovely lady and judge. If you ask anyone about her, people would say only the most wonderful things. That’s why it makes it even more difficult to understand.”
A friend revealed to the Daily News that Abdus-Salaam had previously gone through a divorce but was now happily remarried.
Who Is Sheila Abdus-Salaam?
Abdus-Salaam was the first Muslin to serve on the bunch and the first black female to be on the NY Court of Appeals. Before that, she served as a judge in the New York Civil Court in 1992. In 1993, she became a New York Supreme Court judge until 2009, according to her profile at NYCourts.Gov.
She was appointed to the Court of Appeals in May 2013 without any opposition. At the time, Gov. Cuomo said of her appointment (via the New York Times): “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.”
She was inspired to enter law as a child after meeting civil rights leader Frankie Muse Freeman.