Taia Travick, April 19th
Sheila Abdus-Salaam, an associate judge on New York State’s highest court and the first African-American women to serve on that bench, was found dead Wednesday, April 12th in the Hudson River.
New York Police Department Harbor Unit responded around 1:45 p.m. to a report of an individual floating by the shore near West 132nd Street in upper Manhattan. 65-year-old Judge Abdus-Salaam was taking to a near dock on the Hudson River and was pronounced dead by paramedics after 2 p.m.
Police were trying to investigate how she ended up in the Hudson River and it is not clear how long Judge Abdus-Salaam had been missing. There were no signs of damage on her body and they declined to guess on the cause of her death, police said. She was fully clothed.
Her family identified her and had an autopsy that determined the cause of her death, but it is reported that Abdus-Salaam may have committed suicide. Her death is being treated as “suspicious”, says the police.
Abdus-Salaam, a native of Washington DC, became the first African American woman to serve on the court of appeals when the Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, named her to the state’s highest court in 2013.
“Justice Abdus-Salaam has followed her inspiration by serving the public throughout her distinguished career as an attorney and jurist,” James, then president of the New York State Bar Association, wrote.
“Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said he knew Abdus-Salaam for many years. He said her death was “difficult to understand”.
Sources: Washington Post, NY Times and The Guardian