The body of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam was found on the banks of the Hudson River in New York City Wednesday. Abdus-Salaam was the first female Muslim judge in the United States and was the first black woman to sit on the New York Court of Appeals.
The NYPD told BuzzFeed cause of death has yet to be determined, but did reveal that there were no obvious signs of injury or trauma. Sources such as CNN, however, are reporting it as a possible suicide, a theory which many people, including Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law Professor, are disputing.
1/She was a remarkable woman and a promising judge. This smacks of a racist Islamophobic misogynistic murder. Comey needs to investigate https://t.co/Ns11SMLpxL
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) April 13, 2017
Judge Abdus-Salaam was reported missing from her Harlem home by her husband Tuesday. He later identified her body after it was found. According to CNN, sources said Abdus-Salaam was feeling stressed lately, which could be a possible impetus for the suicide theory.
The 65-year-old judge was born in Washington D.C. and moved to New York to pursue her education. After graduating from Barnard College, she went onto Columbia Law where she earned her law degree. She became a judge in 1991. In 1994, she was appointed to the New York Supreme Court, until her appointment to the New York Court of Appeals in 2009.
Her judicial record was highly liberal, according to the New York Times, as she often ruled in favor of the working class, immigrants and other marginalized communities. Last summer, in fact, Vox reports that she helped alter the legal definition of parenthood, expanding it to include non-blood relatives, thereby making it easier for same-sex parents to seek custody. In addition to this decision, her record also includes a case in which she ruled it unlawful to exclude jurors based on skin tone (a milestone).
There seems to be a great sense of loss among colleagues who are reacting to the loss of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio called her a humble pioneer and Governor Cuomo called her a "trailblazing jurist and a force for good."
Deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Sheila Abdus-Salaam. She was a humble pioneer. My thoughts are with her family.
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 13, 2017
Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist and a force for good.
On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies. https://t.co/hnic07Shp1
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 12, 2017