After a private five-hour meeting, a 15-judge committee adjourned yesterday without lifting an unprecedented ban on the release of public documents listing investments held by the nation's 1,600 federal judges.

The financial disclosure committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference offered no explanation for the nationwide moratorium, which has drawn criticism from members of Congress, legal scholars and journalists. A spokeswoman said only that "an announcement on this issue will be made soon."

The Internet news organization that sparked the moratorium announced it would file suit.

"Any decision to withhold public documents should not and must not be made arbitrarily, behind closed doors and without explanation," said Mark Sauter of APB Online.

U.S. District Judge William Zloch of Florida issued the ban last week, just as APB expected to receive copies of all 1,600 reports and publish them on the Internet. The ban also halted about 40 other requests.

The spokeswoman said Zloch feared Internet publication could endanger federal judges. No one had petitioned for Zloch's order, which she said he issued orally through administrative channels.

Journalists have used the reports to uncover judicial conflicts of interest. Court officials could not identify a case in which the reports, which do not include addresses or telephone numbers, had been used to harm a judge.