Edward M. Curran, 84, a former chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and member of the bench for 40 years, died Jan. 10 at Sibley Memorial Hospital after an apparent heart attack.

Judge Curran was admitted to the D.C. Bar in 1929. Except for a brief period in private practice, he made his entire career in public service. From 1934 to 1936 he was an assistant D.C. corporation counsel and from 1936 to 1940 he was judge of the old D.C. Police Court.

From 1940 to 1946, he was U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, a position which made him the chief prosecutor in the city.

He was appointed a judge of the U.S. District Court by President Harry S Truman. He was chief judge from 1966 to 1971. He then took senior judge status, meaning that he continued to hear cases while enjoying some of the perquisites of retirement. He stepped down from the court altogether in 1986.

When Judge Curran went on the bench, the U.S. District Court had jurisdiction over almost all legal matters in the District of Columbia. It heard not only federal cases but almost everything of a purely local nature, including all felonies, most misdemeanors and all but the smallest civil matters. D.C. Superior Court now performs most of these tasks.

For many years Judge Curran had to handle many matters that normally would come before a state judge. In these as well as in federal cases he was regarded as a judicial pragmatist.

Shortly before he retired last year he issued an opinion in a case that had been before him in various forms for 19 years. It was brought by a District resident who was stopped by police while walking near his home in the Dupont Circle neighborhood in 1967. The officers asked him whether he was a homosexual and ordered him to roll up his sleeves to determine whether he used drugs. The man was challenging the right of police to stop people and ask such questions.

Judge Curran ruled in favor of the plaintiff, saying police must have reason to believe a crime had been committed to question passers-by. This finding was overruled by the U.S. Court of Appeals on the ground that passers-by are free to walk away from such police contacts.

In his final action, Judge Curran "reluctantly" dismissed the case, saying he could find no "pervasive pattern" of police misconduct. But he said there was no question that the rights of the plaintiff had been violated in 1967.

"That citizens can walk the streets, without explanation or formal papers, is surely among the cherished liberties that distinguish this nation from so many others," Judge Curran wrote, quoting from an earlier Court of Appeals opinion. "Almost two decades after the offensive contact with the police, {the defendant} will leave the courthouse with but this judicial recognition of his violated rights."

Judge Curran, who lived in Washington, was born in Bangor, Maine. He graduated from the University of Maine and moved to Washington in 1925 to study law at Catholic University. He received his degree in 1928. He conducted a private law practice here until he was named an assistant corporation counsel in 1934.

From 1930 to 1935 he taught law at Catholic and from 1943 to 1946 he taught law at Georgetown University. He received honorary doctorates in law from the University of Maine and from Catholic and Georgetown universities. He was a former first vice president of the Federal Bar Association and a member of the advisory board of the Catholic University law school.

Judge Curran was a member of the parish of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, a 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus, and a member of the John Carroll Society, the Metropolitan Police Boys Club and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. He was a vice president and director of the Ridgely School for Exceptional Children in Ridgely, Md.

His first wife, the former Katherine C. Hand, died in 1960.

Survivors include his wife, the former Margaret V. Carr, of Washington; four children by his first marriage, Eileen Curran Monahan and Edward M. Curran Jr., both of Bethesda, Mary Catherine Curran of Washington and Ann Curran Schmidtlein of Alexandria, and six grandchildren.

AUDREY ROWE DAVIS,

73, a retired secretary with Di Maio Bros. Inc., a Rockville building firm, died of cancer Jan. 11 at her home in Chevy Chase.

Mrs. Davis was born in Washington and attended Western High School. She had worked for Di Maio Bros. for about 15 years before she retired about 1980.

One daughter, Mary Elizabeth Davis, died in 1966.

Survivors include her husband, Robert A. Davis III of Chevy Chase; three daughters, Patricia Davis of Germantown, Dr. Sally Davis of Walnut Creek, Calif., and Susan Davis of Silver Spring; one son, Robert A. Davis IV of Arlington; two brothers, Robert Rowe of Overland Park, Kan., and George Rowe of New York City; one sister, Polly Barrows of Naples, Fla., and six grandchildren.