First African-American Woman on NY’s Highest Court Found Dead


By Kody Fairfield

The first black woman appointed to the state’s highest court has been found dead on the bank of the Hudson River, reports the Associated Press (AP).

Sheila Abdus-Salaam’s body was discovered along the riverside near Harlem on Wednesday, a day after she was reported missing, police said, according to the AP.

There were no obvious signs of trauma, according to the authorities. They declined to speculate as to cause of death said the AP.

The AP explains that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who appointed Abdus-Salaam to the state’s Court of Appeals in 2013, called her a “trailblazing jurist.”

“As the first African-American woman to be appointed to the state’s Court of Appeals, she was a pioneer,” Cuomo said. “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.”

According to the AP, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said her colleague will be “missed deeply.”

“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,” DiFiore said.

Former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said he knew Abdus-Salaam for many years. He said her death of was “difficult to understand,” the AP reports.

“The court has suffered a terrible blow,” he said.

The president of the New York State Bar Association, Claire P. Gutekunst, said Abdus-Salaam grew up poor in a family of seven children in Washington, D.C., and “rose to become one of the seven judges in New York’s highest court, where her intellect, judicial temperament and wisdom earned her wide respect.”

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