For the most liberal wing of the country, the news is devastating, as RGB, as it was known, was an icon of the most progressive thinking in the United States.
And his passing opens the possibility for President Donald Trump to appoint a replacement and reinforce the conservative majority of 5 to 4 that until now had in the Supreme Court.
Books and biographical films have been made about Ginsburg and his image appears on T-shirts and coffee mugs to Halloween costumes.
“I think people of all ages are excited to see a woman in public life who has shown that, even at 85, she can be unwavering in her commitment to equality and justice,” she said a couple of years ago. Irin Carmon, one of the authors of Notorious RBG , a book about the life of the judge.
Famous for her diminutive stature, serious demeanor, and long pauses in conversation, she was said to have no patience to talk nonsense.
But how did RBG become a symbol?
Feminism and laws
Joan Ruth Bader was born in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, in 1933 to Jewish immigrant parents.
After graduating from Cornell University in 1954, he married Marty Ginsburg and soon after, had their first child.
While Ginsburg was pregnant, she was demoted from her job at a social security office (discrimination against pregnant women was still legal in the 1950s) and that experience led her to hide her second pregnancy years later.
In 1956, she became one of nine women who enrolled in Harvard Law School, in which the dean forced his students to tell him how they could justify taking a man’s place in his school.
She later transferred to Columbia Law School in New York and became the first woman to work on law reviews for both colleges.
Yet despite graduating from those universities, Ginsburg struggled to find work.
Eventually, she became a professor at Rutgers University in 1963, where she taught some of the earliest classes on women and law, and was a co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.
In 1973, she became the general counsel of the latter organization, ushering in a prolific era for arguing gender discrimination cases, six of which brought her before the United States Supreme Court.
He won five of them, including one from a man claiming his deceased wife’s pension after giving birth.
It was also during this time that he argued on behalf of an Air Force captain who had become pregnant and who was being asked to abort the baby so that she would not lose her job.
In 1973, the Roe v . Wade decided to legalize abortion, but Ginsburg noted that since the ruling hinged on the right to privacy and not equal protection, it was open to legal attack.
“The Court ventured too far into the change it ordered and presented an incomplete justification for its action,” he told a 1984 conference.
The second woman on the Supreme Court
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter nominated Ginsburg to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
He earned a reputation as a centrist , voting with the Conservatives many times.
For example, when he refused to hear the discrimination case of a soldier who said that he had been discharged from the Army for being gay.
President Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court in 1993, after a lengthy search.
Ginsburg became the second woman to serve as a judge on the highest court in the United States.
The fiery dissident
One of his most important and earliest cases in Court was the one called United States v. Virginia , which overruled the all-male admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute.
Explaining her decision, Ginsburg argued that no law or policy should deny women “full citizenship, the same opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate and contribute to society based on their individual talents and abilities.”
As the Court has become more conservative, Ginsburg moved increasingly to the left and became famous for her ardent dissent from the rest of the justices.
It has been a position that made her so well known that a young law student named Shana Knizhnik created a Tumblr account dedicated to Ginsburg called Notorious RBG , a reference to the late rapper The Notorious BIG.
The account reintroduced Ginsburg to a new generation of young feminists and became so popular that Knizhnik and his co-author Carmon turned the blog into a book of the same name, which became a best-seller.
“I think it’s actually something that Ginsburg has really enjoyed these past few years,” said Schiff Berman, who worked for the judge.
“It is very exciting for her to feel that her legacy can inspire a new generation of women, young people in particular.”
A pop icon
Many aspects of Ginsburg’s life have become a subject of fascination on the internet. RGB has been celebrated for its fashion style, from its fondness for lace gloves to its elaborate jabots. , the collars she wears over her tunics, to her famous “breakaway necklace.”
However, the judge was not immune from criticism … or error.
During the 2016 election, he called then-candidate Donald Trump a “phony” and said he couldn’t imagine a world with him as president of the United States.
“He says whatever comes to him at the moment. He really is self-centered,” he told CNN.
His statements were criticized by both the right and the left, who claimed that those comments could undermine his impartiality and court authority.
RGB finally apologized.
Refusal of withdrawal
During President Barack Obama’s two terms, some pundits wondered aloud if it was not time for Ginsburg to step down at the time, with a Democrat in office, allowing another liberal judge to pass through to the court.
But those calls were greeted by Ginsburg with some irritation.
“Many people have asked me, ‘When are you going to resign?’ But as long as I can continue to do my job at full steam, I will still be here,” he said in an interview.
His death opens the possibility for President Trump to appoint one more conservative to the highest court in the United States.
* This article is a version of a profile originally published on BBC Mundo in November 2018 and was updated with the news of his death.