BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Court officials confirmed the death Tuesday of U.S. District Judge Sandra Townes, 73, the first black woman appointed as a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York.
Syracuse.com broke the news of Townes’ death this morning, quoting James Townes as saying his mother died Thursday at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Judge Townes was reportedly diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago. Though she went into remission in December 2015, her son told Syracuse.com that the illness returned stronger in late 2016.
She kept working through it all and was still reviewing cases until her final moments, hoping to return one last time to the bench, her son said, according to the Syracuse.com report.
Though the Eastern District’s Gene Corcoran confirmed Townes’ death Tuesday, the court has not issued a statement on the trailblazing jurist.
Appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2003, Townes presided over a case that allowed Sikh MTA workers to wear turbans on the job, as well as the corruption case of disgraced New York Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. and a court appearance for accused terrorists.
Townes was the first black woman elected to Syracuse City Court as well, according to the Syracuse.com report.
The article says Townes left her job as a former English teacher at Corocoran High School to enroll in law school at Syracuse University while her children were young.
She reportedly joined the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office in 1977, overseeing hundreds of sexual-abuse and child-abuse cases that eventually led to her promotion as the office’s first chief assistant district attorney.
President Donald Trump, who has nominated more white men to federal judgeships than any other president in decades, now has an opportunity to fill the vacancy.