U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova criticized a D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday for making racially insensitive remarks to a federal prosecutor that the judge has since apologized for and said were made in jest.

DiGenova said he found the remarks, made by Judge Frederick Weisberg June 2 during a break in a murder trial, "injudicious and offensive" and planned to file a complaint with the city's judicial oversight commission.

Weisberg's comments to Ronald Dixon, a black prosecutor, occurred as courtroom personnel attempted to cool the courtroom by dimming the lights. At that point someone said it might be difficult to see Dixon or for Dixon to see.

"Mr. Dixon can smile," the judge said, using an old stereotype considered offensive to blacks. A few moments later, the judge said, "Mr. Dixon can wear a bright suit," according to a transcript of a discussion about the incident the next day between the prosecutor and the judge.

Dixon said nothing to the judge the day the comments were made, but raised the subject the next day after the judge interrupted Dixon's closing arguments and accused the prosecutor of making an "inflammatory, improper, racist and disgusting" argument.

Weisberg, a former public defender appointed in 1977, is generally regarded as one of the court's more liberal members and champions of defendants' rights.

Weisberg would not comment yesterday about the incident because post-trial motions are still pending. Other judges and lawyers, however, rallied to his defense.

Said J. William Erhardt, director of legal assistance for D.C. Superior Court, "I've known Fred Weisberg for 15 years, and in my opinion he's one of the smartest and most thoughtful judges on the Superior Court bench. He is also a Jewish guy, with an Episcopalian wife and a black stepson. I don't know anyone who is more sensitive to racial issues than he is."

"He's the last person in the world who would intentionally make a racially offensive remark," said Chief Judge Fred B. Ugast. "Anyone who knows Judge Weisberg knows he is a compassionate and sensitive judge."

Ugast called diGenova earlier in the day to discuss the incident. "I wanted him to know that such remarks, though unintentional, were inappropriate," said Ugast.

According to the transcript of the next day's discussion about the comments, Weisberg repeatedly apologized to Dixon for his statements and called them "stupid." The judge said he made the remark about smiling in response to what he thought was Dixon's statement that with the lights dimmed the jury would not be able to see the prosecutor.

Sources said the judge believed Dixon was joking, so he responded in kind. They said Weisberg was deeply troubled by the incident.

"Realizing that was clearly an unpleasant thing to say, {I} tried to get past it by adding, 'Mr. Dixon can wear a bright suit,' which . . . only made them worse," said the judge, according to the transcript. "I realized as soon as I made it that somebody might not think that was funny. I regretted having made it. I tried to make further light of it and today I am fully prepared to apologize for it. It was a stupid thing to say."

Dixon told the judge he had not said anything the previous day because he had a "thick skin," but had felt compelled to raise the issue when the judge described some of his closing arguments as racist. "At that time, your honor, the obvious occurred to the government because I am a black assistant U.S. attorney that the court was making an improper and totally, totally insulting remark to counsel," said Dixon.

DiGenova said he planned to write to the D.C. Judicial Tenure Commission and "express our extreme displeasure, sadness and concern that any judge could make such insensitive racial remarks."