Barbara Finkelstein, CEO of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, and Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who served as an associate justice of the Court of Appeals, received the Diversity Trailblazer awards Monday at the State Bar’s annual meeting in New York City.
“Ms. Finkelstein has served as the executive director for the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley since 1995, strengthening the organization through diversity and inclusion,” said the Committee Chair Sandra Irby Buchanan.
Rev. Greg Jacobs, husband of Judge Abdul-Salaam, and NYSBA President Sharon Stern Gerstman at the NYSBA annual meeting on Jan. 22. Photo: Jacques Cornell.
Finkelstein is the first woman to lead the nonprofit. Since 1995, the organization has provided free legal services to nearly 600,000 low-income people in Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster counties.
“We are also honored to award the family of the late Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam a posthumous Diversity Trailblazer award for Judge Abdus-Salaam’s decades of service and leadership for diversity and inclusion in the legal community and her mentorship of diverse attorneys,” Buchanan said.
Abdus-Salaam, appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013, was the first African-American woman to serve on the Court of Appeals. Before that, she spent more than two decades as a justice on the state Supreme Court and in the Appellate Division of the First Department.
On April 12, Abdus-Salaam’s body was discovered floating in shallow water along the shore of the Hudson River in Harlem. Her death was ruled a suicide.