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Trailblazing Judge 'Still Dancing in Our Hearts,' Mourners Say at Memorial

By Dartunorro Clark | May 26, 2017 5:03pm | Updated on May 30, 2017 9:51am
 Hundreds packed The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine to honor the judge, who was found dead in the Hudson River on April 12.
Hundreds packed The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine to honor the judge, who was found dead in the Hudson River on April 12.
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Flickr/State Court of Appeals

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — Hundreds gathered at a memorial service Friday to remember trailblazing Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, 65, the first black woman to sit on the state Court of Appeals, whose body was found in the Hudson River last month.

Mourners including family, friends and colleagues packed the service at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on Morningside Heights to remember Abdus-Salaam's wit, compassion, generosity and overall big-heartedness.

Attendees included former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Janet DiFiore, the chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, among other elected officials and those in the legal world.

Abdus-Salaam was found dead on April 12, with police saying there were no indications of foul play but still deeming the death suspicious. The NYPD ultimately closed its investigation to await a final determination from the city’s Medical Examiner.

Between the prayers, poems and the singing of hymns, several close friends relayed to the crowd personal anecdotes about the judge.

“You’d be hard pressed to find a lawyer or a judge or anybody who was more compassionate and more willing to give more of herself,” said Rolando Acosta, a justice for the state’s appellate division.

He also noted that Abdus-Salaam's love of dance was a potent part of her character.

“Sheila loved to boogie,” Acosta said, repeating a comment made by Holder, who attended Columbia Law School with her in the 1970s, when she was sworn in as an appeals judge in 2013.

“She loved to dance and did it with as much grace as she lived her life,” Acosta added. “Sheila will still be dancing in our hearts. We will miss you, sister.”