First African-American woman appointed to the New York Court of Appeals, Sheila Abdus-Salaam, found dead

Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African-American woman to serve on New York state’s highest court and the first female Muslim judge in the United States, was found dead Wednesday afternoon in Hudson River.

Police responded to a call about a person floating fully-clothed in the Upper Manhattan river at 1:45pm (UTC-05:00). Later identified as 65-year-old Abdus-Salaam, who had been reported missing by her husband the day before, the body was found with no signs of trauma or injury, and the cause of death is still under investigation.

In a statement, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hailed her as a “trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.

“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,” Cuomo further added.

Born into a working-class family in Washington D.C., Abdus-Salaam grew up with six siblings and attended public school.

After graduating from Barnard College, and obtaining her law degree from Columbia Law School, Abdus-Salaam began her legal career at the East Brooklyn Legal Services – later becoming an Assistant Attorney General in the New York State Department of Law.

According to The Court of Appeals, she began her judicial career in 1992 and was appointed in 2009 by Governor David A. Paterson to the Appellate Division, First Department.

Residing in New York, her death has shaken the community, as well as thousands of other government officials, followers and judges from around the world.

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