Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist and a force for good.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 12, 2017
On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies. https://t.co/hnic07Shp1
A TrailblazerSheila Abdus-Salaam broke ground in many ways. She was the first Muslim woman to serve as a judge in the United States. She was also the first black woman on New York’s top court. The New York Times spoke glowingly of her legal legacy, praising her compassionate judgment:
On the court, Judge Abdus-Salaam was among the most reliable and steadfast liberal voices, regularly siding with vulnerable parties — the poor, impoverished immigrants and people with mental illnesses, for instance — against more powerful and established interests. She also tended to lean toward injured parties who brought claims of misconduct, fraud or breach of contract against wealthy corporations.
An LGBTQ AllyJudge Abdus-Salaam resided over an important court case that opened up the legal definition of family to queer parents. In a 2016 custody battle between a split lesbian couple, Judge Abdus-Salaam wrote that the “foundational premise of heterosexual parenting and nonrecognition of same-sex couples is unsustainable, particularly in light of the enactment of same-sex marriage in New York state.” The court ruled that former same-sex couples have the right to seek visitation and custody of a child even when they are not the biological or adoptive parent.
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