Sheila Abdus-Salaam, an associate judge on New York State’s highest court, has been found dead in the Hudson River. She was found by authorities on Wednesday afternoon and pronounced dead after 2 p.m., according to The New York Times.
Authorities are investigating how she ended up in the Hudson. Officers found no signs of trauma or signs of criminality. Abdus-Salaam’s body was identified by her husband.
Abdus-Salaam has made history on multiple instances throughout her legal career. In 1994, she became the first female Muslim judge in the United States when she started serving on the State Supreme Court. In 2013, she became one of seven judges on the State Court of Appeals, which is the state’s highest court. She was the first Black woman to serve on it.
The loss of such an influential presence has been felt throughout New York City’s legal community as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and many others have expressed their sadness.
Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist and a force for good.
On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies. https://t.co/hnic07Shp1
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 12, 2017
Deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Sheila Abdus-Salaam. She was a humble pioneer. My thoughts are with her family.
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 13, 2017
Devestated by the news that judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam was found dead in NY.
RIP. May Allah bless your soul our Sister. #RIPJudgeAbdusSalaam
— Nihad Awad نهاد عوض (@NihadAwad) April 13, 2017
“She leaves a lasting impact on New York — from her time as a legal services attorney fighting on behalf of low-income families, to her tenure as the first African-American woman to preside on the state’s highest court,” said Seymour W. James Jr., attorney in chief at the Legal Aid Society.
Abdus-Salaam was raised in Washington as part of a working-class family with six siblings. She later attended Barnard College and earned her law degree from Columbia University. Her legacy and reputation will surely live on in her honor.