Death of NY Judge Found Dead in Hudson 'Suspicious,' Police Say

The death of esteemed NY appeals judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam is now being called suspicious, police said.

Abdus-Salaam, who was the first African-American woman to sit on NY state's highest court, was found dead in the Hudson River near West 132nd Street about 1:45 p.m. on April 12, officials said. Investigators have not determined what led to her death, though suicide has not been ruled out.

The New York City police harbor unit retrieved her body from the Hudson on Wednesday, a day after she was reported missing. There was no evidence of criminality, according to the NYPD, but it could not yet be ruled out.

Her body showed no signs of trauma or obvious wrongdoing.

Her body was found floating in three feet of water near Manhattan's west side on Wednesday afternoon last week.

The department said the death appeared to be non-criminal, but "at this point we can't say for sure", according to an NYPD statement. To be considered, a candidate must have practiced law in New York State for at least 10 years. The NYPD also issued an "Information Needed" notice on Tuesday, tweeting out a request for information from the public. The 65-year-old was last seen wearing a charcoal gray zip-up sweatshirt with "Canada" in red letters across the chest.

Abdus-Salaam rose through the state ranks before eventually being elected to the Supreme Court in 1993.

Filling Abdus-Salaam's seat will nearly certainly require the state Senate to return after the scheduled June 21 end of the 2017 session to vote on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's nominee - if, that is, he and the legislative chamber wish to stick to the statutory deadlines, something that they have not done uniformly in recent years.

The pioneering judge was known for her commitment to social justice.

Abdus-Salaam was appointed to the New York Court of Appeals in May 2013 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

After receiving her degree from Columbia Law School, she began her legal career working as a staff attorney at East Brooklyn Legal Services.

  • Larry Hoffman