Home > News & Advice > News Obituaries > Sheila Abdus-Salaam (1952–2017)

Sheila Abdus-Salaam (1952–2017)

by Kirk Fox

The first female Muslim judge in the U.S.

Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the country’s first female Muslim judge, died Wednesday, April 12, 2017, according to multiple sources. She was 65.

She was also the first black female judge to serve on New York state’s highest court.


Her body was discovered Wednesday afternoon in the Hudson River. She had been reported missing by her husband Tuesday, according to news reports.

Robert Boyce, chief of detectives for the New York Police Department, told reporters that there were no apparent injuries to Abdus-Salaam’s body, and her death does not appear to be criminal in nature.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed her to the New York State Court of Appeals in 2013. Cuomo made a statement following news of her death.

“Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist and a force for good,” Cuomo said. “On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio paid tribute on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Sheila Abdus-Salaam. She was a humble pioneer. My thoughts are with her family.”

She was born Sheila Turner March 14, 1952, in Washington, D.C. She went to college at Barnard and received her law degree from Columbia University. She was a lawyer at East Brooklyn Legal Services and later became an assistant attorney general in the New York State Department of Law. She began her judicial career in 1991.

The judge gave her mother credit for the drive to succeed.

“If my mother wasn’t such a smart and resourceful woman, I might have ended up in foster care or worse,” she said in 2015 at a Black History Month celebration, according to NBC News. “Although she dropped out of school, my mother realized that a good education would help us escape the poverty that we were trapped in.”

We invite you to share condolences for Sheila Abdus-Salaam in our Guest Book.

More Stories