Manhattan, 16 Rajab 1438/13 April 2017 (MINA) – Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first Muslim woman judge in the US, was found Wednesday along the Hudson River in Manhattan.
Abdus-Salaam, 65, sat on the New York Court of Appeals, and was the first black woman to rise to that bench. The New York Police Department told BuzzFeed News her cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner, but there were no signs of injury or trauma to her body.
Abdus-Salaam had been reported missing by her husband on Tuesday, police said. The New York Post reported her death appeared to be suicide.
She was born in Washington, DC, attending public schools there, then moving to New York to attend Barnard College, according to the New York State Courts. She received her law degree from Columbia University in 1977, then went to work at East Brooklyn Legal Services as a staff attorney.
Abdus-Salaam was elected as a judge in New York City in 1991, then in 1993 was elected to New York County’s Supreme Court. Gov. David Paterson appointed her to the state’s appellate division in 2009, and in 2013 she was appointed and confirmed to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.
Abdus-Salaam, who made history as the country’s first female Muslim judge, was nominated in 2013 to serve on the state Court of Appeals by Gov. Cuomo.
“As the first African-American woman to be appointed to the State’s Court of Appeals, she was a pioneer,” Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. “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.
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies to her family, loved ones and colleagues during this trying and difficult time,” the governor added.
“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,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said on behalf of the New York Court of Appeals. “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, New York Daily News reported.
“She was highly respected and an inspiration to so many throughout her career,” state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement. “Her passing leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.”
“Deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Sheila Abdus-Salaam. She was a humble pioneer. My thoughts are with her family,” Mayor de Blasio wrote on Twitter.
“Justice Abdus-Salaam was not simply a trailblazer as the first Muslim female judge in the United States and the first African-American woman on the New York Court of Appeals. During her time on the bench, Justice Abdus-Salaam earned the respect of all who appeared before her as a thoughtful, thorough, and fair jurist,” state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
Abdus-Salaam, one of seven children born to a working class family in Washington, D.C., graduated from Barnard College and received her J.D. from the Columbia University School of Law, where she was a classmate of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
“She was a conscientious, thoughtful judge who never lost her humility. This is an unspeakable tragedy,” city Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter told the Daily News.
“Our hearts ache with the passing of Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam – a judicial stalwart renowned for her intellect, and commitment to the law, morality, fairness, and justice,” the Legal Aid Society said in a statement.
Other neighbors were stunned by the sudden death.
“The sort of person who would harm nobody. Not a bad bone in her body, you wouldn’t imagine anything like this ever happening to her,” said Pat Miller, 56. “There was no malice. She never flaunted her power. You wouldn’t know unless you asked her. Totally unbiased.”
Reverend James Moore, 65, who lives next door, described Abdus-Salaam as a “lovely person.”
“I’m very shocked that something like this would occur,” he said. “What frightens me is, how can something like this happen.”
The medical examiner will determine the cause of death and the investigation is ongoing, police said, the New York Daily News reported.(T/RE1/RS5)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)