Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a 65-year-old associate judge of New York's highest court, was found floating in the water near 132nd Street and Hudson Parkway in Manhattan at around 1.45pm local time on Wednesday, a police spokesman said.
The judge’s was fully clothed body was pulled from the water and she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Sheila Abdus-Salaam has been found dead in the Hudson River
I was proud to appoint her to the state’s highest court and am deeply saddened by her passing
Her family have identified her and now an autopsy will determine what caused her death, the spokesman said.
Abdus-Salaam had been reported missing from her home in Harlem on Tuesday, according to reports.
Originally from Washington DC, Ms Abdus-Salaam became the first African-American woman appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2013.
The area on the banks of the Hudson River where the body is believed to have been spotted
Tributes have poured in from high-profile figures in the city.
New York Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement: "Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”
He added: “As the first African-American woman to be appointed to the State’s Court of Appeals, she was a pioneer.
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New York mayor Bill de Blasio is among those to have offered a tribute to Ms Abdus-Salaam
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“Through her writings, her wisdom, and her unshakable moral compass, she was a force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come.
“I was proud to appoint her to the state’s highest court and am deeply saddened by her passing.
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies to her family, loved ones and colleagues during this trying and difficult time.”
Meanwhile, New York mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted: "Deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Sheila Abdus-Salaam. She was a humble pioneer. My thoughts are with her family.”