The body of Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a 65-year-old associate judge of New York’s highest court, was found floating off Harlem about 1.45pm local time, a police spokesman said.

Police pulled Abdus-Salaam’s fully clothed body from the water and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Officers said her body showed no obvious signs of trauma and they declined to speculate on the cause of her death.

The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History said Abdus-Salaam was the first Muslim woman to serve as a US judge. She was also the first black woman appointed to the state’s highest court.

Abdus-Salaam, a native of Washington, DC, became the first African American woman appointed to the court of appeals when the Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, named her to the state’s highest court in 2013.