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On Wednesday afternoon (Apr. 12), State Court of Appeals Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam was found floating in the Hudson River after having been reported missing by her husband Reverend Gregory Jacobs they day before (Tues., Apr. 11). There has been much speculation as to whether her death was murder or suicide but according to police sources, Abdus-Salaam may have been battling depression and as a result may have committed suicide.

Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a 65 year old jurist and was hailed as the United Sates first ever female Muslim judge and, even more importantly, the first black woman to be appointed to the state’s highest court. In 2013, she was nominated by Governor Cuomo for a seat on the state’s Court of Appeals which became the highest point of her legal career since earning her law degree from the Columbia University School of Law. Before being appointed, Sheila Abdus-Salaam served as a Manhattan Supreme Court Judge for 14 years.

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Her death came as a huge shock to many who knew and worked with Abdus-Salaam. Harlem Assemblyman Keith Wright recalled last seeing Abdus-Salaam on the subway days before and describes her as “always a very calming, beautiful presence.” He went on to say that “she became one of the brightest and most respected legal minds in the U.S.” Her neighbor Pat Miller, a 56 year-old woman from Harlem, says that she couldn’t accept the though or idea that Abdus-Salaam would have taken her own life. “I could not imagine her doing anything to herself to harm herself. She’s not that type of person…I’d like to know what happened. I’d really like to know.”

At this time, Sheila Abdus-Salaam’s death is still being investigated. Hopefully within time, the police and pathologist can reach a definitive answer as to what happened to Judge Abdus-Salaam.

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