Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Letter From Sheila’s Husband

April 12, 2019

Dearest Family and Friends:

It has been two years since our beloved Sheila left our Harlem home and did not return. We continue to mourn and yet still cherish the love and friendship that she bestowed on so may of us. We remain ever so grateful for who she was and for the legacy she left for future generations. I am particularly thankful for those of you who have contributed to scholarships established in her name at Barnard College and Columbia University School of Law.

However, there remains a piece of unfinished business. Despite our best efforts over the past years, we have been denied the opportunity to review evidence upon which the New York Chief Medical Examiner ultimately based her determination of the manner of death. Formal disclosure requests to the New York Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney have been rejected. Formal and informal channels have been used in our efforts to review the case files and other evidence relevant to the investigation. Those attempts too have been met with no response or otherwise have been ignored. To date, we have not been furnished with any evidence that conclusively establishes the manner of death nor with any explanation of the process by which the manner of death was determined.

We continue to disagree with the conclusion of the Chief Medical Examiner as to the manner of death, awaiting full disclosure of all the medical, criminal, and legal evidence gathered to date in the investigation of Sheila’s death.

Sincerely,

Greg Jacobs

In Memoriam: Sheila Abdus-Salaam, 1952-2017

The Honorable Sheila Abdus-Salaam, an associate judge on the New York Court of Appeals and a resident of Harlem, New York, died on April 12, 2017, at age 65.

During her 40-year legal career, Sheila gave tirelessly and compassionately as a public servant, mentor, distinguished jurist, and community leader. The first black woman appointed to New York’s highest court, Sheila was known for her support of young lawyers and law students, encouragement of the aspirations of practicing lawyers and judges, and her commitment to excellence.

A native of Washington D.C., Sheila was one of seven children born to Willena Turner and Alfred Brown. She was educated in the District of Columbia Public Schools and attended Eastern Senior High School, graduating in June 1970 as salutatorian of her class. She received a scholarship to attend Barnard College, graduating in 1974. In 1977, she earned her Juris Doctorate from Columbia Law School where she was a Charles Evans Hughes Fellow.

Following law school, Sheila started her legal career as a public defender at Brooklyn Legal Services and then worked as assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights and Real Estate Financing Bureaus of the New York State Attorney General’s office from 1980 to 1988. She  subsequently became general counsel of the New York City Division of Labor Services, serving there until 1991.

Sheila was first elected a judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York, beginning in December 1991, and then, in 1993 and 2007, was elected a justice of the Supreme Court, First Department of the State of New York. In March 2009, she was appointed to the Supreme Court’s appellate division by Governor David A. Paterson, and in 2013, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo appointed her to the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.

Among her many memorable legal opinions was her 2016 Court of Appeals decision in Matter of Brooke S.B. vs. Elizabeth A.C., which expanded the legal definition of what it means to be a parent, effectively overturning a previous ruling in which the court had held that the non-biological parent in a same-sex couple relationship had no standing to seek custody or visitation rights following a breakup. She was known and respected as a jurist who with thoughtfulness, compassion and sensitivity protected the rights of the most vulnerable in our society.

She gave her time generously to the legal community, and formerly served as president of the New York City Chapter of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, Director of the Respect for Law Alliance, and on the executive committee of the National Lawyers Guild, New York City Chapter.

In and out of the courtroom, Sheila was a champion for justice. She served on the boards of Contemporary Guidance Services and Project Brownstone Inc. and was chair emerita of the board of Harlem Legal Services and the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation.  She was devoted to Barnard College and Columbia Law School, and served as vice president of the Columbia Law School Board of Visitors.

Sheila was an avid swimmer and athletically inclined, playing basketball, softball and running track in her earlier years. She also loved to dance and, as former Attorney General Eric Holder noted at her Court of Appeals swearing-in, “She loved to boogie.”  Most enduring was her warm engaging spirit coupled with a non-discriminating love for persons from every walk of life.

Sheila is survived by her husband, the Rev. Canon Gregory A. Jacobs, her brother, Benjamin Turner (Hattie), her sisters, Sherene Turner, Sheryl McCain (Jethro), and Pamela Turner, her sister-in-law, Deborah Turner, one aunt, Helen Turner, and by many loving nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and colleagues. She was preceded in death by her mother and  father, brothers Melvin Brown and Jerome Turner, aunts and uncles.

A public memorial service will be held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, New York City on Friday, May 26 at noon.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam Memorial Fund c/o Episcopal Diocese of Newark, 31 Mulberry Street, Newark, NJ  07102. Contributions will benefit funds in her name being established at Barnard College, Columbia Law School, and other charitable organizations.