Body of 1st black woman appointed to NY's highest court found in river

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Jim Dolan reports from Harlem. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

An appeals court judge who was the first African-American woman appointed to New York's highest court has been found dead in the Hudson River off Manhattan.

Around 1:45 p.m. police responded to a call of someone reporting the body of a woman in the water near West 132nd Street.

65-year-old Sheila Abdus-Salaam was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her cause of death is not yet known. Police do not expect foul play.

Abdus-Salaam was appointed to the state's Court of Appeals by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013. She graduated from Barnard College and received her law degree from Columbia School of Law.

Governor Cuomo released a statement on Judge Abdus-Salaam's death:

"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.

"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.

"I was proud to appoint her to the state's highest court and am deeply saddened by her passing.

"On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies to her family, loved ones and colleagues during this trying and difficult time."

She was a giant among lawyers in New York, but somehow was humble and gracious and eager to help others walking the path she was creating.

She was born Sheila Turner in Washington, D.C., but went to Barnard College and Columbia Law School.

She started out in neighborhood law, as a staff lawyer at East Brooklyn Legal Services, but her career would lead her to be appointed the first African American on the state's highest court.

The day she was confirmed, those familiar with her career were effusive.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas also released a series of tweets expressing her condolences:



(Some information from the Associated Press)

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