The Lawyers’ Committee mourns the loss of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African-American woman named to New York State’s highest court, and the first Muslim woman to serve as a judge in the United States. She was a dedicated public servant who devoted her career to public service and to defending the interest of vulnerable communities.
“While this is a great loss for her family, the court, and the community she most dutifully served, Abdus-Salaam will be remembered for her extraordinary work as a jurist and her unbending commitment to the principle of equal justice under law,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Judge Abdus-Salaam’s service as a jurist was exemplary and helped contribute needed racial and religious diversity to the bench.”
Prior to her appointment to the state’s highest court, Judge Abdus-Salaam spent more than 15 years as a judge on the New York State Supreme Court, including in the Appellate Division. Before rising to the bench, she served as a public defender providing representation to those who could not afford counsel and served as an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Among her many successful cases included one on behalf of more than 30 female New York City bus drivers who had been denied promotions.