On Wednesday afternoon, a justice on New York state's highest court, Sheila Abdus-Salaam, was found dead in the Hudson River near Harlem. Authorities said there was no sign of struggle or foul play, but medical examiners will determine the cause of death after an autopsy. Her family identified the body; she had been reported missing earlier that day.
As tragic as her death is, it is not how Abdus-Salaam will be remembered. Supporters and friends have begun to share remembrances and tributes of her life in the hours since her death was announced, and most remark on her brave, independent rulings.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Abdus-Salaam had a long and impressive legal career after attending Columbia Law School in Manhattan. She started first at East Brooklyn Legal Services and had a number of jobs before winning an election in 1991 to take the bench. In May 2013, she was confirmed to the Court of Appeals, having been nominated by current New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She was the first black woman to ever sit on the court.
One of her most meaningful written rulings of late was on the definition of parenthood. She threw out the old requirement that it be based on biology, acknowledging that nonbiological parents should have the right to sue for custody if there's clear evidence that they had planned to raise the child.
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore had her own warm words to say. "Her personal warmth, uncompromising sense of fairness and bright legal mind were an inspiration to all of us who had the good fortune to know her," DiFiore said in a statement. Here are more remembrances.
From The Man Who Appointed Her
Law Professors Across The Country
Politicians In The State Assembly
Residents Ask You To "Say Her Name"...
...And Talk About Her Rulings
A Verse From The Qur'an
"A Pioneer, Trailblazer, And Inspiration To Many"
From District Attorneys
Read About Her Accomplishments
And From The NAACP
There is no doubt that Abdus-Salaam was a beloved member of the New York judiciary, and is mourned by many.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Abdus-Salaam was Muslim. This is incorrect. Her husband was Muslim, and she took his last name, though she never officially converted to Islam.