President Carter has selected Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the nation's leading advocates of women's rights, for a seat on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals here, according to informed sources.

Ginsburg, 46, a professor at the Columbia Law School, was the legal architect of many of the successful arguments used in major constitutional law cases this decade that involved claims of sex discrimination.

A strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, Ginsburg is "the intellectual mento of many of the feminist lawyers in this country," said Judith L. Lichtman, the executive director of the Women's Legal Defense Fund in Washington.

It was learned that presidential assistant Sarah C. Weddington telephoned Ginsburg at her New York City home yesterday morning and informed her that she was the administration's choice for the appeals court.

Ginsburg declined to comment on the selection yesterday. She must undergo FBI clearance checks and screening by a special committee of the American Bar Association before President Carter can formally submit her nomination to the Senate for cofirmation.

If her nomination is approved, Ginsburg would assume the seat on the court held for 14 years by Judge Harold Leventhal who died last month following a heart attack.

Leventhal was highly regarded in legal circles for his well-crafted legal opinions which were described by one colleague as "pathbreaking in the law."

His legacy "is in very good hands" with Ginsburg's selection, Lichtman said yesterday.

Ginsburg's selection for the powerful appeals court is expected to be a political boost for Carter among woman's rights groups. As a judge of the appeals court here, Ginsburg would be considered high in the running for any vacancy that might occur on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Members of the National Organization for Women picketed in the rain outside the White House Thursday while Carter met with members of 16 other women's groups to discuss strategy for ratification of the equal rights amendment.

Last weekend, NOW's executive board unanimously voted not to support Carter's bid for reelection, saying he had not worked hard enought for ERA and had not taken a strong enough stand on the abortion issue. However, according to one report, NOW's political action committee is still free to endorse a candidate.

A teacher of constitutional law and civil procedure -- basically the rules for te civil law system -- Ginsburg's career has focused as well on drafting legal briefs, arguing cases and designing legal principles to be used in the courts to fight sex discrimination.

In 1971, Ginsburg wrote the brief in the landmark case (Reed v. Reed) in which the u.S. Supreme Court struck down a state law that discriminated on the basis of sex. Considered the first modern sex discrimination case, the question involved whether women could act as trustees in certain estate and wills transactions. The Idaho state law that was declared unconstitutional gave males preference.

In 1973, Ginsburg appeared before the Supreme Court to argue the right of a female member of the military services to declare her spouse as a dependent in order to gain greater living allowances, medical and dental benefits. The supreme Court held that differential treatment for male and female members of the armed services violated the Constitution.

Ginsburg has argued, however, that Supreme Court cases are not enough to insure that women receive equal rights, and has pushed hard for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

"ERA prohibits government from steering woman or man into a predetermined role on account of sex," Ginsburg wrote in an April 1975 article. "It requires government to respect the right of each man and woman to develop his or her personal talent."

In that article, Ginsburg quoted a noted abolitionist and equal rights advocate, Sarah Grimke, who said -- 150 years ago -- "I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks."

Ginsburg went on to write, "What ERA does is make government officials take their feet off women's necks. That development should attract the full support of persons committed to individual liberty and equal justice under law."

A graduate of Cornell University, Ginsburg attended the Harvard Law School for two years and then transferred to Columbia where she was awarded a law degree in 1959. After a clerkship with a federal court judge in New York, Ginsburg began teaching at Rutgers Law School in Newark, N.J., in 1961. Nine years later she was appointed to the law faculty at Columbia.

Ginsburg and her husban, Martin, a partner with the New York City law firm of Welil, Gotshal & Manges, have two children.

Ginsburg would be Carter's fourth nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals here, a traditionally liberal and innovative bench considered second in influence only to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two of Carter's choices, Patricia McGowan Wald, 51, formerly assistant attorney general for legislative affairs and Abner J. Mikva, 53, who was a five term democratic congressman from Illinois, assumed newly created seats, bringing the court membership up to 11. Wald was the first woman to take a seat on the federal appeals court here.

Last September, Carter selected Michigan Law School professor Harry T. Edwards, 39, to succeed David L. Bazelon, who assumed the part-time status of a senior judge after 30 years on that court, 15 of which he spent as chief judge. Edwards, a specialist in labor law and arbitration, is also chairman of the board of directors of Amtrak. He would be the second black member of the court.

The work of the appeals court here complex cases brought directly to the court from the nation's regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The court also handles civil rights and employment discrimination cases, Freedom of Information Act cases and resolution of labor disputes.