Witnesses had spotted her fully clothed body and called 911, cops said.
Sources told The Post that Abdus-Salaam, who is an associate judge of the Court of Appeals, had been reported missing from her home in Harlem earlier in the day.
Her husband later identified her body. Sources said it showed no obvious signs of trauma or injuries indicating criminality or foul play, and that her death appeared to be a suicide.
US first female Muslim judge found dead in NY
United States’ first female Muslim judge has been found dead in New York’s Hudson River.
Police pulled Sheila Abdus-Salaam’s fully clothed body from water and she was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of her death is not yet known. She had been reported missing from her New York home on Wednesday. The 65-year-old judge became the first African-American woman appointed to the Court of Appeals when Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo named her to New York’s high court in 2013. She was also the first female Muslim to serve as a US judge. Abdus-Salaam held a series of judicial posts after being elected to a New York City judgeship in 1991.
From NBC News.Com:
Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Described as ‘Trailblazer,’ Found Dead in New York
She was the first African-American woman to sit on New York State’s highest court. She was also widely hailed as the nation’s first female Muslim judge.
And now the New York Police Department is trying to determine whether Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, whose body was found floating off Manhattan in the Hudson River, took her own life.
“It’s too early to tell right now,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Thursday. “We’ve spoken to many people in her family about her history. We don’t believe she was on any drugs at all. It was a surprise to everyone.”
The 65-year-old judge, who lived in nearby Harlem, had spent the weekend in New Jersey with her husband, the Rev. Gregory Jacobs, and spoke with her assistant on Tuesday morning, Boyce said.
Abdus-Salaam was discovered on Wednesday afternoon in the water near West 132nd Street. She had a MetroCard in her pocket and there were no obvious signs of trauma on her clothed body.
“We don’t believe she was in the water for a long time,” Boyce said.
The New York City Medical Examiner said it too was “unable to confirm the cause and manner of death at this time,” a spokesperson told NBC News.
Meanwhile, tributes poured in for the respected jurist who Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called a “trailblazer.”
“During her time on the bench, Justice Abdus-Salaam earned the respect of all who appeared before her as a thoughtful, thorough, and fair jurist,” he said in a statement “I join all those who knew Justice Abdus-Salaam in mourning this terrible loss.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called her a “humble pioneer.” And Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Abdus-Salaam possessed an “unshakable moral compass.”
“She was a force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come,” Cuomo said.
Asked what makes her a good judge, Abdus-Salaam said in a 2012 profile for Columbia Law 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 of a slave. She took her first husband’s last name and continued to use it professionally after that marriage ended, according to the Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History.
One of six children raised by working class parents, Abdus-Salaam attended public schools and first became interested in the law by watching the TV show “Perry Mason.” But she found her calling when Frankie Muse Freeman, a civil rights attorney and the first woman to be appointed to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, visited her high school.
“She was riveting,” Abdus-Salaam recalled in the profile. “She was doing what I wanted to do: using the law to help people.”
The judge also gave her mother credit for pushing her to succeed.
“If my mother wasn’t such a smart and resourceful woman, I might have ended up in foster care or worse,” Abdus-Salaam recalled in 2015 at a Black History Month celebration. “Although she dropped out of school, my mother realized that a good education would help us escape the poverty that we were trapped in.”
Abdus-Salaam earned her bachelor’s degree at Barnard College in 1974 and graduated three years later from Columbia Law School where she was classmates with future U.S. Attorney Eric Holder, who remembered as serious but fun-loving.
“Sheila could boogie, but there was a seriousness about her, a strong sense of purpose at a relatively young age,” he said. “She never forgot where she came from.”
Her first job out of college was as a public defender in Brooklyn where she often represented poor defendants and immigrants in landlord versus tenant disputes.
“The job was not just legal, but also part social work, and some part education,” she said in the profile.
Later, she was an assistant attorney general in the New York State Department of Law’s civil rights where she won an anti-discrimination suit on behalf of 30 female city bus drivers who had been wrongly passed over for promotions.
In 1994, Abdus-Salaam became the nation’s first female Muslim judge when she started serving on the New York Supreme Court. Then in 2009, Gov. David Paterson appointed her associate justice to the New York Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
In 2013, Cuomo nominated Abdus-Salaam to fill a vacancy on the New York Court of Appeals and praised her “deep understanding of the everyday issues facing New Yorkers.” And after the state Senate confirmed her nomination, Abdus-Salaam received a standing ovation.
She quickly distinguished herself as a champion of the poor and downtrodden and as a hedge against the powerful and politically-connected corporations. She also wrote a landmark decision that gave the non-biological parent in a same sex couple visitation rights after a breakup.
Abdus-Salaam was married three times. Her second husband was James Hatcher. And she is survived by Jacobs, whom she married in 2016 and who is a minister at the Episcopal Diocese of Newark.
Thank you NBC News.Com & CORKY SIEMASZKO
Police say the New York judge found dead in the Hudson River likely committed suicide