Justice ruth bader ginsburg has died aged 87, the us supreme court said on friday, leaving a vacancy on the high court just weeks before the november presidential election.
Ginsburg, a liberal icon, was nominated to the court by bill clinton in 1993. the second woman to serve on the supreme court, she was famed for her groundbreaking work to advance equal rights for women.
Her death sets up an intense political battle over her replacement on the us high court. donald trump and leading senate republicans have previously said they would move to fill any vacancy this year.
The justice died on friday evening due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. she was at home in washington, surrounded by her family, the court said.
In recent years, her health has deteriorated, and she suffered repeated bouts of illness or injury.
Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature, said chief justice john roberts. we at the supreme court have lost a cherished colleague.
Until ginsburgs passing, the court had a 5-4 conservative majority, including two trump appointees. a third trump appointee would solidify conservative control of the court, regardless of the outcome the presidential election.
Republicans currently control the senate, which would need to confirm any appointment by a simple majority vote. mitch mcconnell, the senate majority leader, has repeatedly said he would seek to push through a nominee.
In 2016, the mr mcconnell blocked president barack obamas attempt to fill a supreme court vacancy, citing the fact it was a presidential election year. he has argued that this time would be different because both the senate and white house are in the hands of the same party.
Chuck schumer, the top democrat in the senate, on friday said the empty seat should not be filled until after the election.
The american people should have a voice in the selection of their next supreme court justice. therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president, he said in a tweet.
Without defections by senate republicans, democrats would be unable to prevent mr trump from installing a new justice.
Mr trump successfully united conservatives behind him in 2016 by publishing a list of potential nominees for the supreme court seat kept open by mr mcconnell. he repeated that manoeuvre earlier this month in an attempt to boost his campaign.
The president ultimately appointed neil gorsuch, and later brett kavanaugh, to the court, moving it more firmly into the control of conservatives.
Mr kavanaughs confirmation battle was particularly bruising, as he faced allegations of sexual misconduct. he denied the claims.
Ginsburg had resisted calls to step down while the democratic mr obama was in office, which would have allowed him to nominate her successor. in 2016 she predicted hillary clinton would defeat mr trump.
On friday, national public radio reported that ginsburg had dictated a statement to her granddaughter: my most fervent wish is that i will not be replaced until a new president is installed.