James S. Gardiner, 77, who served as chairman of the D.C. Superior Court Mental Health Commission for more than 25 years, died Nov. 13 of leukemia at Sibley Memorial Hospital. He was a longtime Chevy Chase resident.

Mr. Gardiner, a Washington native, graduated in 1945 from Gonzaga College High School, where he made the All Metropolitan football team. He served in the Army Air Forces toward the end of World War II, receiving his discharge in 1947.

He graduated from Georgetown University in 1951 and received his law degree in 1955, also from Georgetown, while working in the clerk's office of the U.S. District Court in Washington.

That same year he became the assistant motions commissioner for the U.S. District Court, and two years later a law clerk for Judge Walter Bastian of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He practiced law in Maryland and the District until his appointment in 1969 to the Mental Health Commission, a court-appointed panel of two psychiatrists and a lawyer that renders opinions regarding the mental competency of criminal defendants. He retired in 1994.

Mr. Gardiner was a member of the D.C. Bar Association and served on the board of directors of the Anchor Mental Health Association, from which he received the Monsignor Kuhn Distinguished Service Award. He was appointed by then-Mayor Marion Barry to the Committee on Mentally Ill Treatment-Resistant Patients.

He also trained officers of the court regarding various legal issues, and served on the Superior Court Advisory Committee for Rules on Mental Health and on the Superior Court Judicial Conference.

He was a past president of the Gonzaga Alumni Association and of the Home School Association and Parish Council at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. He was a longtime member of the Columbia Country Club and a Cub Scout leader and a Catholic Youth Organization football coach at Blessed Sacrament.

Survivors include his wife of 44 years, Jackie Gardiner of Chevy Chase; four sons, James Gardiner of Potomac, Matthew Gardiner and John Gardiner, both of Bethesda, and Timothy Gardiner of Washington; and six grandchildren.