The life of a trailblazing New York judge has come to a tragic—and currently unexplained—end. The body of Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a 65-year-old judge on the state's highest court, was found floating in the Hudson River on Wednesday afternoon, around a mile from her Harlem home, the New York Daily News reports. Police say there was no sign of traumatic injuries or foul play. Her husband, who reported her missing Tuesday morning, was brought in to identify the body. Abdus-Salaam became the first female Muslim judge in the US in 1994 and became the first black woman on New York's Court of Appeals when Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed her as an associate judge in 2013, the AP reports.
Abdus-Salaam grew up as one of seven children in a working-class family in Washington, DC. She started out as a public defender in Brooklyn after earning her law degree from Columbia University in 1977, the New York Times reports. "She was a pioneer," Cuomo said in a statement, per the AP. "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." The New York Post reports that many lawyers and judges also paid tribute to Abdus-Salaam on Wednesday. "The court has suffered a terrible blow," says Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of the Court of Appeals. "She was a superb jurist and an even more superb human being."