Crime

First Female Muslim Judge In U.S. Found Dead In River

| by Ray Brown

The first female Muslim judge in the United States was found dead in New York City's Hudson River.

Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a 65-year-old associate judge on New York State’s highest court, was taken out of the river by authorities and pronounced dead upon arriving at a local hospital. The cause of death has not yet been reported, but foul play is not suspected, according to The New York Times.

Abdus-Salaam had been an associate justice on the New York Court of Appeals since 2013, according to CNN.

News of her death brought in words of sympathy from an array of New York State leaders.

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Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, who appointed her to the court, described her on Twitter 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 said in a statement, according to the Gothamist. "I was proud to appoint her to the state’s highest court and am deeply saddened by her passing. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies to her family, loved ones and colleagues during this trying and difficult time."

"Deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Sheila Abdus-Salaam," tweeted Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City. "She was a humble pioneer. My thoughts are with her family."

"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," said Seymour W. James Jr., The Legal Aid Society's Attorney-in-Chief. "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. We extend our deepest condolences to her family and everyone she touched over the course of her life during this difficult time."

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According to Abdus-Salaam's biography page on the New York Courts' website, she was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and went to the city's public schools. She then graduated from Barnard College in 1974 and received her J. D. from Columbia Law School in 1977.

She began her career as a staff attorney at East Brooklyn Legal Services before holding various state legal positions, including Assistant Attorney General in the New York State Department of Law, Civil Rights and Real Estate Financing Bureau between 1980 and 1988.

In 1993, Abdus-Salaam was elected to the Supreme Court of New York County, and then re-elected in 2007. She was then confirmed by the New York State Senate to serve on the Court of Appeals on May 6, 2013.

Source: CNN, The New York Times, Gothamist, Andrew Cuomo/Twitter, Bill de Blasio/Twitter, Court of Appeals / Photo credit: Snopes

Was there foul play involved in her death?
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