Trailblazing NY Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam’s Body Found Floating In Hudson River (VIDEO)

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Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the trailblazing first Muslim woman to serve as a U.S. judge, was found dead and floating in the Hudson River on Wednesday.
Photo: Video screen grab via USA Today.
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Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the trailblazing first Muslim woman to serve as a U.S. judge, was found dead and floating in the Hudson River on Wednesday.

Police told Reuters they spotted her body drifting by New York City’s west side, dragged her body out of the river, and immediately pronounced her dead.

Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a 65-year-old associate judge of New York’s highest court [the Court of Appeals], was found floating off Manhattan’s west side at about 1:45 p.m. EDT (1545 GMT), a police spokesman said.

The prominent jurist graduated from Barnard College and Columbia Law School, then launched her career at East Brooklyn Legal Services, a non-profit that provides legal services for low-income people.  Sheila Abdus-Salaam then served as a New York state assistant attorney general, was elected to her first judgeship in New York City in 1991, and then held various other judicial posts before Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed her to the Court of Appeals in 2013.

A saddened Cuomo stated:

“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.”

Police say Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam may have committed suicide.

The autopsy results are still not in, but The New York Times reports police strongly suspect suicide. Her brother killed himself around three years ago and her mother died last year. When they found her body, she was fully dressed and had no signs of physical assault, struggle, or injuries.

Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam called her chambers in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday to say she wasn’t coming in because she was sick. On Wednesday, her assistant texted her husband, who called the police.

The New York Times notes the late judge was raised as one of seven children in a struggling family in Washington, D.C. Throughout her career, her jurisprudence favored the poor and vulnerable against the rich and powerful.

On the court, Judge Abdus-Salaam was among the most reliable and steadfast liberal voices, regularly siding with vulnerable parties — the poor, impoverished immigrants and people with mental illnesses, for instance — against more powerful and established interests. She also tended to lean toward injured parties who brought claims of misconduct, fraud or breach of contract against wealthy corporations.

In a court decision from last summer, the judge wrote the decision for Brooke S.B. v Elizabeth A.C.C. that overturned a previous decision and ruled in favor of custodial rights for non-biological parents in same-sex couples. Before that, the non-biological parent had no legal standing for seeking custody and visitation rights after a divorce or breakup.

USA Today reports on the untimely death of N.Y. Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam.

Featured image: Video screengrab via USA Today.

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