Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam, an associate justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, is Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the state Court of Appeals.
If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the first African-American woman to serve on the Court of Appeals.
“As one of our state’s most respected and experienced jurists, Justice Abdus-Salaam will bring a wealth of judicial and legal expertise to the New York State Court of Appeals,” said Cuomo, who made his announcement Friday. “Rising from working class roots to serve for decades on the bench of the New York State Supreme Court, Justice Abdus-Salaam has a deep understanding of the everyday issues facing New Yorkers, as well as the complex legal issues that come before the state’s highest court. Justice Abdus-Salaam’s respect for the law and commitment to making New York a more just place to live will continue to benefit all New Yorkers, and I am pleased to send her nomination to the state Senate.”
Cuomo had until Friday to select one of seven nominees sent to him last month by the state Commission on Judicial Nomination to fill a vacancy created by the early November death of Judge Theodore T. Jones Jr.
Justice Abdus-Salaam, in a release from Cuomo’s office, said she was honored to be nominated.
“Throughout my legal career, I have sought to uphold the laws of our state and treat all those who appear before me fairly and with respect and dignity,” she said. “This nomination presents me with an opportunity to continue to serve New Yorkers and advocate for justice and fairness here in New York State.”
Justice Abdus-Salaam has served as an associate justice of the Appellate Division, First Department since April 2009. She was elected justice of the state Supreme Court in November 1993 and re-elected in November 2007. From January 1992 to December 1993, she served as a judge on the Civil Court of the City of New York.
She has also served as general counsel in the New York City Office of Labor Services from June 1988 to December 1991; and as an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights and Real Estate Financing Bureaus, August 1980 to May 1988.
Justice Abdus-Salaam is a graduate of Barnard College and received her juris doctor from the Columbia University School of Law.
“Justice Abdus-Salaam is an ideal choice, having vast experience ruling on everything from corporate issues to personal injury cases to criminal matters,” said New York State Bar Association President Seymour W. James Jr. “Inspired as a teenager to enter the legal profession after an encounter with civil rights attorney Frankie Muse Freeman, Justice Abdus-Salaam has followed her inspiration by serving the public throughout her distinguished career as an attorney and jurist.”
Last month, the state bar association gave Justice Abdus-Salaam its highest rating of “well qualified” to serve on the Court of Appeals. The association has evaluated candidates for the Court of Appeals since 1967.
“The Metropolitan Black Bar Association commends Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in his decision to appoint the Hon. Sheila Abdus-Salaam to the New York State Court of Appeals,” said R. Nadine Fontaine, the association’s president. “We congratulate Justice Abdus-Salaam in this historic achievement as the first African-American female judge to sit on the bench of this court. As she elevates to this position, we strongly believe that she will continue to demonstrate the judicial traits that has garnered her the respect of her peers and the members of the legal community.”
David M. Schizer, dean of Columbia Law School, called Justice Abdus-Salaam “a magnificent choice whose wisdom, fair-mindedness, analytical power, integrity, and compassion will bring great distinction” to the court.
“The appointment of Justice Abdus-Salaam … is not only a source of great pride to our association, but a benefit to all New Yorkers who are, every day, impacted by the decisions of the state’s highest court,” said Maureen E. Maney, president of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, who noted Justice Abdus-Salaam is a member. “Her experience, intelligence and judicial temperament make her the perfect nominee for this position. The governor’s nomination not only recognizes the outstanding qualifications she possesses, but also promotes diversity.”