N.Y. high court nominee would be first African-American woman to serve

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Apr 8, 2013

ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday nominated Sheila Abdus-Salaam, an associate justice of the appellate division of the New York State Supreme Court, to serve on the state's Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals is New York's highest court.

Abdus-Salaam would be the first African-American woman to serve on the court.

"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," Cuomo said in a statement.

"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."

He continued, "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."

Abdus-Salaam said she is honored to be nominated for such a post.

"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 in a statement. "This nomination presents me with an opportunity to continue to serve New Yorkers and advocate for justice and fairness here in New York State. I thank Gov. Cuomo for this opportunity."

Abdus-Salaam has served as an associate justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, since April 2009. She was elected justice of the New York State Supreme Court in November 1993 and reelected in November 2007. From January 1992 to December 1993, she served as judge on the Civil Court of the City of New York.

She 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 from August 1980 to May 1988.

She is a graduate of Barnard College and received her law degree from the Columbia University.

Last month, the New York Bar Association gave 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.

"Justice Abdus-Salaam is an ideal choice, having vast experience ruling on everything from corporate issues to personal injury cases to criminal matters," Bar Association President Seymour W. James Jr. said in a statement Friday.

Robert Abrams, a four-time New York attorney general and now partner with New York firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, agreed.

"The governor has made a great choice. Sheila has the ability, experience, temperament and integrity to be an outstanding judge on the Court of Appeals," he said in a statement.

"I've known her for 30 years, she worked for the Attorney General's Office for six years, and I can attest to her capability to step into this role."

Abdus-Salaam's nomination must be confirmed by the state Senate.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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