Harland Francis Leathers, 94, a former Justice Department section chief, died Sept. 11 of a heart attack at his home in Arlington.
Mr. Leathers joined the Justice Department after World War II, working as chief of the tax court unit of the renegotiation section of the civil division and later heading that division's general litigation section.
He was responsible for supervision of cases nationwide, including the right of the Navy to discharge a homosexuals, the right of Vietnam war protesters to camp on the Mall, the circumstances under which members of the armed services may assert conscientious objector status, and the extent to which the government may limit access to evidence from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He retired in 1980.
Mr. Leathers was regarded as an authority on questions of sovereign immunity.
He was born in Leathers Corner in Hermon, Maine, and graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in 1932.
He served as the editor of the Maine Spring, a literary magazine. From 1931 to 1934, he taught and served as principal of Hermon High School.
Mr. Leathers graduated from Duke University law school with the Class of 1937, which included President Richard M. Nixon, who hosted the class's 35th reunion at the White House in 1972.
After graduating, Mr. Leathers practiced law with the New York law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hope and Webb from 1937 until 1942. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the war effort by working in Washington as an attorney for the Office of Price Administration.
From November 1942 to 1946, Mr. Leathers served in the Army and rose to the rank of captain in the Special Branch of the Military Intelligence Service. He was assigned to a joint intelligence group at Pearl Harbor.
In early 1945, all War Department Ultra publications for Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, including the diplomatic summary, Far East summary and shipping and economic notes, were sent directly from Washington to then-Capt. Leathers. He assisted in the preparation of all Ultra intelligence for presentation to Nimitz.
Mr. Leathers was a member of the American Bar Association and the District of Columbia Bar. He was a descendant of Stephen Hopkins and a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants.
Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Jean Dopp Leathers of Arlington; four children, Francis D. Leathers of Winchester, Mass., Howard D. Leathers of College Park, Nancy Leathers Borglin of Richmond and Walter D. Leathers of Arlington; and nine grandchildren.