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Nominee Would Be First Black Woman on State's High Court

3:33 PM, Apr 5, 2013   |    comments
Sheila Abdus-Salaam, www.nycourts.gov
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By Jessica Bakeman, Gannett  Albany Bureau

ALBANY, NY -  Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday nominated a state judge for the Court of Appeals who would be the first black woman to sit on the high court.

Cuomo nominated Sheila Abdus-Salaam, 61, of Manhattan, who is currently an associate justice of the state Supreme Court Appellate Division.

If confirmed by the state Senate, Abdus-Salaam would replace late Court of Appeals Associate Justice Theodore Jones of Rockland County, who died unexpectedly in November. She would be one of four women on the seven-member court, which has been operating at less than full strength since Jones' death.

Cuomo called Abdus-Salaam "one of the state's most respected and experienced jurists" in a statement 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," Cuomo said.

She is Cuomo's second nominee for a Court of Appeals post. The Senate confirmed his choice of City University of New York law professor Jenny Rivera in February.

Rivera replaced former Senior Associate Justice Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Abdus-Salaam has served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department, since April 2009. She was elected justice of the Supreme Court in November 1993 and reelected in November 2007.

From January 1992 to December 1993, she served as judge on the New York City Civil Court.

Abdus-Salaam served as general counsel in the New York City Office of Labor Services from June 1988 to December 1991 and as 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 J.D. from the Columbia University School of Law.

Last month, the state Bar Association gave Abdus-Salaam its highest rating of "well qualified" to serve on the Court of Appeals. The organization has been evaluating candidates for the high court since 1967.

"I am honored to be nominated by Governor Cuomo to serve on the New York State Court of Appeals. 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," Abdus-Salaam 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," she continued.

The Senate has 30 days from Friday to confirm or deny Cuomo's nomination.

In February, some Republican senators questioned Cuomo's choice of Rivera, arguing that she was not qualified and landed the nomination because of "social engineering." Rivera is Puerto Rican and replaced Ciparick, who was the first Hispanic judge on the court.

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