Mayor Marion Barry yesterday nominated Inez Smith Reid, a high-ranking city lawyer and former inspector general for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to replace Judith W. Rogers as the D.C. corporation counsel.

Reid, 46, a low-key figure with broad experience in public administration and the academic world, has served as a top deputy to Rogers for the past 2 1/2 years. Rogers resigned to accept an appointment to the D.C. Court of Appeals.

"In looking at the corporation counsel, certainly you want to find someone whose legal skills you respect, whose personal integrity is impeccable and whose trust in judgment I feel comfortable with," said Barry, introducing the woman he chose from among a dozen candidates inside and outside of municipal government.

The corporation counsel is the city's chief legal officer and supervises a staff of 100 lawyers who represent the city and provide official opinions on a wide range of matters. In addition to handling all civil litigation for the city, the office also handles a wide range of misdemeanor prosecutions, juvenile cases and the more serious traffic charges.

The mayor met briefly with his cabinet yesterday morning before formally announcing his choice of Reid and several other appointees at his regular monthly press conference.

John Suda, deputy corporation counsel in charge of the civil division, was appointed principal deputy corporation counsel, the No. 2 administrative post in the office.

Frederick D. Dorsey, currently the principal deputy corporation counsel, was nominated to replace Brian Lederer as People's Counsel, the official advocate on behalf of District consumers in utility rate cases. And David Rivers, the acting director of the D.C. Department of Human Services, was named permanent director.

Barry also introduced Maudine R. Cooper, an official in the Washington office of the National Urban League, whom the mayor appointed last month to replace Anita B. Shelton as director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights.

However, the mayor once again refused to explain why he fired Shelton, who for years has been the target of strong criticism of her managment style and judgment in dealing with politically sensitive discrimination cases.

"Shakespeare had a saying that the past is prologue," Barry said. "I'd like to leave it at that. We're moving forward. Miss Cooper is going to bring a great wealth of talent and leadership, and it does no good to talk about what has happened in the past."

Asked why he waited nearly five years to deal with problems in that highly sensitive office, Barry said that a long list of more pressing problems, including a budget crisis, had kept him from acting until now.

Although Reid is not widely known in Washington's legal and political circles, her selection was praised yesterday by City Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), who heads the council's judiciary committee, which must review the nomination before referring it to the full council for fiunal action.

"She's a diligent worker," said Rolark, who is an attorney. "That's a heavy law office and that's what you need--someone to put out the work . . . The corporation counsel is almost a round-the-clock operation. It needs someone who is quick on the draw."

Council Chairman David A. Clarke, also a lawyer, said that while Reid has solid credentials as an attorney, "I'm not able to judge her administrative qualities . . . and frankly, I don't know how independent a mind she has."

Reid, a native of New Orleans, attended the D.C. public schools before launching a distinguished academic career. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University in 1959 and obtained a law degree at Yale in 1962, a masters degree at UCLA in 1963 and a PhD in public law and government at Columbia University in 1968.

She has taught political science at Barnard College, Brooklyn College and Hunter College in New York City and served as an assistant professor of African Studies and political science at the State University of New York in New Paltz.

Reid worked as a lawyer in former New York governor Hugh Carey's administration before returning to Washington in 1977 to assume a federal post as deputy general counsel to the then-Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

She served as inspector general for the EPA throughout the Carter administration, and then joined the D.C. Corporation Counsel's office in March 1981, as chief of the Legislation and Opinion Section. Last December, Reid was promoted to deputy corporation counsel in charge of the Legal Counsel Division.

In describing her plans for the office, Reid said that her staff must constitute "a leading law firm in the District of Columbia--a sound profesional enterprise, if you will."

"I think Mrs. Rogers made extraordinary strides towards eliminating the image of the corporation counsel's office as less than a top, leading law firm, and I'd like to build on the strides that she has made," she said.