Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who became the first female Muslim judge in the United States in 1994, was found dead in New York City on Wednesday.
She was 65 years old.
According to CNN, police responded to a 911 call about an individual floating in the The Hudson River around 1:45 p.m. yesterday.
Upon examination, they discovered an unconscious and unresponsive woman, who was later pronounced dead and identified as Abdus-Salaam.
She been reported missing the day before.
The New York Police Department confirms that a medical examiner will soon announce the cause of death, while the case is under investigations.
It is unclear whether foul play is suspected at this time, although there were no signs of trauma at the scene.
Abdus-Salaam had been an associate justice on the New York Court of Appeals since 2013, when she was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“I was proud to appoint her to the state’s highest court and am deeply saddened by her passing,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“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.
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies to her family, loved ones and colleagues during this trying and difficult time.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also paid tribute to the justice in a tweet on Wednesday, writing of Sheila Abdus-Salaam:
“Deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Sheila Abdus-Salaam. She was a humble pioneer.”
Abdus-Salaam graduated from Barnard College and received her law degree from Columbia Law School.
She started her career as a staff attorney for East Brooklyn Legal Services and served as a judge in Manhattan state Supreme Court for 14 years, according to the state Office of Court Administration’s website.
Seymour W. James Jr., attorney in chief at the Legal Aid Society, said via his own statement that the judge’s shocking death had left many heartbroken.
“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.”
Abdus-Salaam grew up in Washington as one of seven children.
As a public defender in Brooklyn, she represented people who could not afford lawyers and then served as an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State attorney general’s office.
What a horribly sad story.
We’ll keep readers apprised if any new details break.
In the meantime, we send our condolences to the friends, family members and loved ones of Sheila Abdus-Salaam.