By: Krystle Crossman
Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam made history in 2013 when she became the first black woman and the first Muslim judge in history to be sworn in to the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state. Sadly Abdus-Salaam was found dead at the age of 65 of April 12th, 2017. She had been reported as missing from her home in Harlem earlier that day. A body was found a few hours later floating in the Hudson River near the Manhattan side and authorities determined that it was the missing judge. They stated that there were no signs of trauma and no obvious signs of foul play. It is tentatively being called a suicide pending results of an autopsy. Reports state that she had been struggling with depression for quite some time.
Abdus-Salaam was a graduate in the class of 1977 from Columbia Law School. From there she worked as an assistant attorney for Brooklyn Legal Services in the real estate finance and civil law bureaus until 1992. From 1992 until 1993 she was in the New York City Civil Court. She had spent the majority of her legal career as a New York Supreme Court judge. She began in 1993 and did not move on until 2009. From there she worked in the New York Appellate Division of the Supreme Court until she was sworn in to the Court of Appeals in 2013. She took over for Judge Theodore T. Jones who passed away on May 3rd, 2013. She had been nominated for the seat by Governor Andrew Cuomo and was unopposed. At her swearing in ceremony she spoke with Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General and a former Columbia classmate, and said, “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?”
Peers remember Abdus-Salaam as someone who was always doing more for others. Governor Cuomo expressed his condolences and stated that he was proud to have appointed her to the seat. He said that she was a trailblazer and was someone who would have a legacy that would not soon be forgotten and that she had tried to make New York a more fair city for everyone. Abdus-Salaam leaves behind her husband, Gregory Jacobs.