NEW YORK – A judge, who became the first Muslim woman in US history to serve on the bench, was found dead Wednesday — washed up on the Manhattan side of the Hudson River, sources said.
Sheila Abdus-Salaam, 65, was discovered floating in the water near 132nd Street and Hudson Parkway at around 1:45 p.m., according to police sources.
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. – New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Abdus-Salaam, who is an associate judge of the Court of Appeals, had been reported missing from her home in Harlem earlier in the day.
Her husband later identified her body. Sources said it showed no obvious signs of trauma or injuries indicating criminality or foul play, and that her death appeared to be a suicide.
“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,” Gov. Cuomo wrote in a statement Wednesday night.
“She was a pioneer,” he said. “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. I was proud to appoint her to the state’s highest court and am deeply saddened by her passing.”
In addition to being the country’s first Muslim female judge, Abdus-Salaam was the first ever African-American woman to be appointed to the state’s Court of Appeals.
She was then appointed to the Court of Appeals by Cuomo in 2013. Former US Attorney General Eric Holder, who went to Columbia with Abdus-Salaam, was in attendance for her historic swearing-in ceremony and described how she had “defined herself by her relentless pursuit of excellence” — while also managing to be a great dancer.
As word of Abdus-Salaam’s death spread Wednesday, countless lawyers and judges began paying tribute to her.