The first female Muslim judge to serve in a federal Court of Appeals in the United State was found dead on Wednesday evening. Her body had been washed up on the side of the Hudson River in Manhattan. She was sixty-five year old Sheila Abdul-Salaam. Around 1:45 pm police sources reported her body was floating in the water near 132nd Street and the Hudson Parkway.
The judge’s body was fully clothed and eyewitnesses who found her immediately called 911 to alert the authorities. Abdul-Salaam was a judge for the Court of Appeals in New York City. Just earlier that day she had been reported missing from her Harlem residence in the city.
Unfortunately, it was her husband who identified her body. Law enforcement officials have not found any signs of trauma or injuries that would indicate she was murdered or that her death was related to foul play. The preliminary investigation leads them to believe it was an apparent suicide.
On Wednesday night in response to her death, Governor Cuomo released the following statement to the press,
“Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a fairer and more just New York for all. She was a pioneer. 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.
As the first African-American woman to be appointed to the state’s Court of Appeals, she was a pioneer. 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.”
Those who knew the judge said she was beyond reproach when abiding by rules and having a squeaky clean record. Not only was she the first Muslim female judge but she was the first African-American woman to be appointed to the court she served on.
Her storied past speaks for itself. Her undergraduate here was attained from Barnard College. She got her law degree from Columbia Law school which is an Ivy League. Her career started in the East Brooklyn Legal Services clinic where she was a staff attorney. Throughout her entire career, she rose up the corporate legal latter before being appointed to a judgeship in 1993. She had been serving for twenty-four years prior to her alleged suicide.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder attended the swearing-in ceremony to the Court of Appeals in 2013. Holder went to Columbia Law School likely at the same time as Abdul-Salaam. In a speech during the ceremony Holder said she had,
“defined herself by her relentless pursuit of excellence. Sheila could boogie. She was a witty and a great deal of fun to spend time with.”
Abdul-Salaam added her own comments when she spoke at the ceremony as well saying,
“Who knew that we would both attain such high positions, and that you would be the first black United States attorney general, and I would be the first black woman on the New York Court of Appeals?”
Various people from judges and lawyers to public servants have been publically lamenting her sudden and recent death. A judge of the same court she served on Jonathan Lippmann said,
“I’m deeply saddened at having lost a dear friend and colleague, and the court has suffered a terrible blow. She was a superb jurist and an even more superb human being. I knew her for many, many years. To some degree, we grew up together in the court. I’ve known her in all her different roles in the court. It’s just so shocking. She was a very genteel, lovely lady and judge. If you ask anyone about her, people would say only the most wonderful things. That’s why it makes it even more difficult to understand.”
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said the following about her passing,
“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.”
Abdul-Salaam’s backstory also included growing up in Washington, D.C. in a family of over seven children said Claire P. Gutekunst who is the president of the New York State Bar Association. Clearly, she will be greatly missed and her passing will surely be noticed on the court.
FOLLOW us on Facebook at Freedom Daily!