Attorneys for the District of Columbia government have asked a federal judge to stay his recent order requiring the city to reopen the once busy Upshur Street public health clinic by Dec. 19.

D.C. Corporation Counsel Judith W. Rogers said yesterday that the city asked for the stay late Tuesday to give city lawyers time to appeal the order by Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. to reopen the clinic. If that request is denied, Rogers said the city will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the stay.

Mayor Marion Barry shut down the Upshur Street Clinic last May as part of a cost-cutting move. Judge Robinson ruled in mid-November that the decision to close the clinic violated the city's legal responsibility to provide comprehensive medical care at neighborhood facilities.

The city immediately filed a two-part motion challenging the federal judge's authority to rule in such local matters and contending it is virtually impossible to reopen the clinic now since the personnel have been reassigned. But Robinson rejected both those arguments in a decision handed down Friday and delivered to the city Monday.

In that decision, Robinson ordered the city to reopen the clinic by Dec. 19 at the same staff levels it had in January before Barry began staff reductions.

Rogers said the city needs a stay of that deadline so that attorneys can prepare an appeal of the order.