After a year of legal wrangling, Judith Heintz, who runs The Shoe day-care center, apparently is about to be booted out of business.

District of Columbia officials have ordered the 41-year-old woman to close her home to the 12 elementary school-age children, including several handicapped, whom she has been caring for because the Northwest residential neighborhood in which she lives is not zoned for day-care centers.

"I can't believe they have nothing better to do than pick on the little old lady who lives in The Shoe," Heintz said. "I was told that if I did not close The Shoe immediately I would go to jail. I am afraid of jail. . . But I don't want to get rid of the children either."

Heintz has been running the day-care center out of her home at 3938 McKinley St. NW since 1978, but some neighbors have repeatedly complained to the city that the children make too much noise and that the center is a nuisance.

The city's Board of Zoning Appeals has agreed, but Heintz was allowed to continue to operate the center while she petitioned the D.C. Court of Appeals.

The court last week rejected her plea, and on Wednesday the city's Department of Licenses, Investigations and Inspections ordered her to stop running the center immediately.

"We have no alternative but to enforce the law," said Theodore Gordon, chief investigator for the department. Gordon said that Heintz is subject to arrest if she does not discontinue her operation.

Mothers of children at the center were despondent yesterday at the news of the court decision. Some said they did not know of any other place to take their children.

The court said that Heintz had failed to demonstrate that the center would not be objectionable to neighbors "because of the noise and the commotion of the children at play."