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NY appeals court judge, the first black woman on top court, found dead on Hudson River shore

Posted: 8:28 PM, Apr 12, 2017
Updated: 2017-04-13 16:31:05-04

NEW YORK — A trailblazer and a pioneer, Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam's incredible life has ended tragically.

The appeals court judge, who was the first black woman appointed to New York's highest court, was found dead this week on the shore of the Hudson River.

Police said the body Abdus-Salaam, 65, was discovered just before 2 p.m. Wednesday along the river's shore near Harlem, one day after she was reported missing.

It was the husband of this trailblazing justice who had the sad job of making the positive identification.

Her body showed no obvious signs of trauma or foul play, police said. The probe at this time points to a possible suicide, according to Robert Boyce, the NYPD chief of detectives.

Abdus-Salaam was appointed to the New York Court of Appeals in May 2013 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She became the first Muslim woman to serve on the bench in the United Stated and the first black woman to serve on the New York Court of Appeals.

Abdus-Salaam attended Barnard College. Before graduating from Columbia Law school, she had worked as a staff attorney at East Brooklyn Legal Services and eventually was elected to the New York State Supreme Court in 1993.

After news broke of Abdus-Salaam's death, tributes about her keen legal mind poured in.

"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.

"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."

The cause and manner of her death are pending further studies following Thursday's examination.