Health of the liberal justice is closely watched because a vacancy in the nine-member Supreme Court would give President Donald Trump the opportunity to appoint a third justice to 5-4 conservative majority court to prod it further to the right.

US. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is seen during a group portrait session for the new full court at the Supreme Court in Washington, US, November 30, 2018.
US. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is seen during a group portrait session for the new full court at the Supreme Court in Washington, US, November 30, 2018. (Reuters Archive)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalised on Tuesday with an infection caused by a gallstone, but plans to take part in the court's arguments by telephone Wednesday, the Supreme Court said.

The 87-year-old justice underwent non-surgical treatment for what the court described as acute cholecystitis, a benign gall bladder condition, at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

She is resting comfortably and expects to be in the hospital for a day or two, the court said.

Ginsburg took part in the court’s telephone arguments on Monday and Tuesday. She initially sought medical care on Monday, when the gallstone was first diagnosed.

The health of the liberal justice is closely watched because a Supreme Court vacancy would give Republican President Donald Trump the opportunity to appoint a third justice to the nine-member court and prod it further to the right. The court currently has a 5-4 conservative majority.

She has been treated four times for cancer, most recently in August, when she underwent radiation for a tumor on her pancreas.

Her most recent hospital stay was in November, when she spent two nights at Johns Hopkins Hospital with a likely infection after suffering from chills and fever.

The frail-looking liberal icon also bounced back from lung surgery to remove cancerous growths in December 2018. 

Her recovery from that surgery forced her to miss court arguments for the first time since she became a justice in 1993, appointed by President Bill Clinton.

She has been doing her usual workout with a personal trainer at the court, even as the justices have cancelled courtroom arguments in favour of telephone sessions because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ginsburg has said she would like to serve until she's 90, if her health allows.

Source: AP