Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam to be remembered as a 'humble pioneer' after her body was found floating in the Hudson River.

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Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam looks on as members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee poll unanimously to advance her nomination to to fill a vacancy on the Court the Appeals in ~ the Capitol in Albany on April 30, 2013.Mike Groll / AP file
She was the an initial African-American mrs to sit on new York State’s highest court. She was likewise widely hailed as the nation’s very first female Muslim referee — or at the very least one that the first judges with a Muslim surname.

And currently the brand-new York Police room is do the efforts to identify whether referee Sheila Abdus-Salaam, whose human body was found floating off Manhattan in the Hudson River, took her very own life.


Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam look at on together members that the state Senate Judiciary Committee poll unanimously to development her nomination to fill a vacancy on the Court the Appeals in ~ the Capitol in Albany ~ above April 30, 2013.Mike Groll / AP file

"It"s too beforehand to tell appropriate now," NYPD chief of Detectives Robert Boyce claimed Thursday. "We"ve spoken to many world in she family about her history. Us don"t think she was on any type of drugs at all. It to be a surprise to everyone."


The 65-year-old judge, that lived in adjacent Harlem, had actually spent the weekend in new Jersey with her husband, the Rev. Gregory Jacobs, and also spoke through her assistant ~ above Tuesday morning, Boyce said.

Abdus-Salaam was found on Wednesday afternoon in the water near West 132nd Street. She had actually a MetroCard in her pocket and there to be no noticeable signs of trauma on she clothed body.

"We don"t think she remained in the water because that a long time," Boyce said.

The new York City clinical Examiner said it too was "unable to check the cause and manner of fatality at this time," a spokesperson said NBC News.


Meanwhile, tributes poured in for the respect jurist who Attorney general Eric Schneiderman referred to as a “trailblazer.”

“During she time top top the bench, justice Abdus-Salaam deserve the respect of every who appeared before her as a thoughtful, thorough, and also fair jurist,” he stated in a explain “I join all those who knew justice Abdus-Salaam in mourning this devastating loss.”


New York mayor Bill de Blasio dubbed her a “humble pioneer.” and also Gov. Andrew Cuomo claimed Abdus-Salaam own an “unshakable moral compass.”


“She to be a force for an excellent whose tradition will be felt because that years come come,” Cuomo said.

Asked what provides her a good judge, Abdus-Salaam said in a 2012 profile because that Columbia legislation School Magazine, “I think people consider me to be a judge who listens and gives them a fair shot.”

Born Sheila Turner in Washington on march 14, 1952, Abdus-Salaam was the great-granddaughter that a slave. She take it her first husband’s critical name and continued to usage it professionally ~ that marital relationship ended, according to the Encyclopedia the Muslim-American History.

Despite being widely hailed by that encyclopedia and also several published reports as “the very first female Muslim U.S. Judge,” it to be unclear if she was been a practitioner of Islam. A spokesman because that the Court that Appeals told the brand-new York times she was not Muslim.


One the six kids raised by working course parents, Abdus-Salaam attended public schools and an initial became interested in the regulation by watching the TV present “Perry Mason.” however she discovered her calling as soon as Frankie Muse Freeman, a civil civil liberties attorney and the first woman to be appointed to the United claims Commission on polite Rights, visited her high school.

“She was riveting,” Abdus-Salaam recalled in the profile. “She was doing what I wanted to do: utilizing the legislation to aid people.”


The judge also gave her mommy credit for pushing she to succeed.

“If my mommy wasn’t such a smart and resourceful woman, I might have ended up in foster treatment or worse,” Abdus-Salaam recalled in 2015 in ~ a Black history Month celebration. “Although she dropped the end of school, my mother realized the a great education would assist us escape the poor that us were trapped in.”


Abdus-Salaam earned her bachelor’s level at Barnard university in 1974 and also graduated three years later on from Columbia regulation School whereby she to be classmates v future U.S. Lawyer Eric Holder, who remembered together serious but fun-loving.


“Sheila can boogie, but there to be a seriousness around her, a strong sense of objective at a fairly young age. She never forgot wherein she come from.”


“Sheila can boogie, however there to be a seriousness around her, a strong sense of function at a reasonably young age,” that said. “She never ever forgot whereby she came from.”

Her an initial job out of university was as a windy defender in Brooklyn wherein she regularly represented poor defendants and immigrants in landlord versus tenant disputes.

“The project was not simply legal, yet also component social work, and some component education,” she said in the profile.


Later, she was an assistant attorney basic in the brand-new York State department of Law’s civil rights where she won an anti-discrimination fit on instead of of 30 woman city bus motorists who had actually been erroneously passed over for promotions.

In 1994, Abdus-Salaam started serving on the new York can be fried Court. Then in 2009, Gov. David Paterson appointed she associate justice to the brand-new York Appellate department of the can be fried Court.

In 2013, Cuomo nominated Abdus-Salaam to fill a vacancy on the brand-new York Court the Appeals and praised she “deep expertise of the everyday worries facing brand-new Yorkers.” and after the state Senate shown her nomination, Abdus-Salaam obtained a stand ovation.

She quickly identified herself together a champion of the poor and downtrodden and also as a hedge against the an effective and politically-connected corporations. She likewise wrote a landmark decision that provided the non-biological parent in a same sex pair visitation rights after a breakup.


Abdus-Salaam was married 3 times. Her 2nd husband to be James Hatcher. And also she is survived by Jacobs, who she married in 2016 and also who is a minister at the Episcopal Diocese that Newark.

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Editor"s Note: An previously version the this story defined Abdus-Salaam as the nation"s very first female Muslim referee but it appears that she never converted come Islam.