Warren Olney III, 74 a former assistant attorney general and director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, died Wednesday at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He had cancer.

Mr. Olney served as assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division of the Justice Department from 1953 to 1957. Less than a year later, he was appointed director of the administrative office of the courts, a position he held until his retirement 10 years later. As director, he also served as executive officer of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

The administrative office was created in 1939 to serve the federal courts. It prepares budgets, keeps statistics on caseloads and how long it takes a case to reach trial, and prepares an annual report for the chief justice of the United States.

Mr. Olney was its second director. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger credited him with guiding the agency "in its modern period of expansion" and with bringing to the job "(ew ideas of judicial administration. The Federal Judicial Center was his conception in 1967-1968."

Burger said the center, which was set up 10 years ago, serves as a kind of "efficiency expert" for the federal court system. It has a staff of about 100 and a budget of $8 million. He said it was Mr. Olney's idea to separate this "efficieny" function from the "housekeeping" function of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Mr. Olney's years as head of the criminal division of the Justice Department in the Eisenhower administration were marked by successful prosecutions of several members of Congress, Internal Revenue collectors and other sometimes politically sensitive cases. In those days, the criminal division also was responsible for the enforcement of civil rights laws, and Mr. Olney was noted for his zeal in this area. He strongly supported the creation of a separate civil rights division within the Justice Department, and this was done.

Mr. Olney was born in Oakland, Calif. He earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of California and then served two years as a deputy district attorney in Contra Costa County, Calif.

After two years in his father's law firm, he became a deputy district attorney in Alameda County. This began his long association with chief justice Earl Warren, who was then the county's chief prosecutor. In 1939, when Warren was state attorney general, Mr. Olney became assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division, a post he held until 1942.

In the year he was commissioned in the Marine Corps and served in the Pacific during World War II. He was in private law practice in San Francisco from 1946 to 1950. At the same time, he appointed chief counsel to the Sepcial Crime Study Commission on Organized Crime in California. The appointment came from Warren, who was governor of the state at the time, and Mr. Olney held the position until 1951.

After leaving the administrative office of the courts, Mr. Olney returned to California to pursue his interest in history and archeology and to practice law.

Survivors include his wife, the former Elizabeth Bazata, of the home in Berkeley, two daughters, Elizabeth Anderson andd Margaret Olney, and a son, Warren IV, all of Berkeley.