The U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday agreed to delay a federal judges's order barring District police from questioning pedestrians and asking them for identification when there is no reason to suspect that the person has committed a crime, or is about to commit one.

Senior U.S. District Judge Edward M. Curran ruled May 13 that such informal encounters between police officers and pedestrians -- known as "contacts" -- violated constitutional protections of personal privacy. Curan had ordered the police department to rescind a 1973 general order that permits such contacts and to draw up a new order that would prohibit such conduct.

The class action lawsuit was brought on behalf of all pedestrians in the District who were represented in the case without charge by attorneys from the Washington firm of Wald Harkrader & Ross and the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Yesterday, the appeals court granted a request from city lawyers that implementation of Curran's order be delayed until the case could be fully reviewed by the appeals court. These lawyers, who represent the police department, argued that there was no legal support for Curran's ruling that an informal contact between a police officer and a pedestrian can be initiated only if there is reason to suspect that criminal activity may be involved.

The appeals court ordered attorneys to prepare for expedited consideration of the case.