Ginsburg died on Friday at age 87, the court said, giving President Donald Trump a chance to expand its conservative majority with a third appointment at a time of deep divisions in America with a presidential election looming.
Ginsburg, a champion of women's rights who became an icon for American liberals, died at her home in Washington of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, the court said in a statement. She was surrounded by her family, the court said.
Her departure could dramatically alter the ideological balance of the court, which currently has a 5-4 conservative majority, by moving it further to the right.
"Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature," Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. "We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her - a tireless and resolute champion of justice."
Trump, seeking re-election on Nov. 3, already has appointed two conservatives to lifetime posts on the court, Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Supreme Court appointments require Senate confirmation, and Trump's fellow Republicans control the chamber.
Supreme Court justices, who receive lifetime appointments, play an enormous role in shaping US policies on hot-button issues like abortion, LGBT rights, gun rights, religious liberty, the death penalty and presidential powers. For example, the court in 1973 legalized abortion nationwide - a decision that some conservatives are eager to overturn - and in 2015 allowed same-sex marriage across the United States.