LORD Macfadyen, who has died aged 62, was deemed in a 2004 poll by The Firm magazine to be the most consistently respected judge in Scotland. Advocates commented that he was "the High Court judge who is the most respected among Scotland's advocates. He is bright, straightforward, open-minded, fair and down-to-earth".

Those qualities were applied to important cases involving the removal of children from Orkney in 1991 and most famously in the Lockerbie appeal of 2002. He also served as chairman of Medical Appeal Tribunals and - beyond the Faculty of Advocates - of the Edinburgh heritage group, the Cockburn Association.

Donald James Dobbie Macfadyen was born a month after hostilities ceased in the Second World War, the son of Donald Macfadyen and his wife, Christina. Educated at Hutchesons' Boys' Grammar School in Glasgow, he then studied law at Glasgow University, graduating in 1967. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1969 and was standing junior counsel to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (1977-79) and the Scottish Home and Health Department (1982-83).

Macfadyen also served as an advocate depute from 1979-82 and was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1983. From July 1991 to March 1992 he was counsel to the Inquiry into the Removal of Children from Orkney. This followed the removal by social services of nine children from their families following allegations of "ritualistic" abuse on the island. Although in April 1991 a sheriff ruled that the evidence was seriously flawed and the children were returned home, the inquiry found that the conduct of the workers during the removal was proper.

Concurrently, Macfadyen served as part-time chairman of Medical Appeal and Vaccine Damage Tribunals from 1989 to 1995, and was vice-dean of the Faculty of Advocates from 1992 to 1995. After serving for a year as a temporary judge, in 1995 he was fully elevated to the bench, having also earned a reputation as an effective manager of cases in his capacity as one of Scotland's commercial judges.

Hard-working, careful and courteous in the courtroom, his clarity of mind allowed him to make courageous, sometimes unexpected, decisions. One example was the contentious case against Jim Brady in 1996. Brady had taken the life of his brother, who was suffering from Huntington's disease. After a lengthy trial Lord Macfadyen reprimanded Brady with a clearly argued yet sensitive summing up. Stressing "exceptional circumstances", he concluded that Brady had acted out of "compassion rather than from any malicious motive or any desire to make matters easier for himself".

His reputation on the bench was enhanced by the Lockerbie appeal of 2002. That year, five judges of the Scottish Court met in the Netherlands in highly unusual circumstances to try the appeal of the Lockerbie bombers following the disaster of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988. The trial made legal history as a few acres at Camp Zeist were deemed to be Scottish soil. Macfadyen worked closely with four other Scottish judges under Lord Cullen. The nine-month trial was an exhausting process - the judgment alone ran to 82 pages and some 26,000 words - and the appeal of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi was ultimately rejected. In 2002 he was also appointed to the Privy Council.

In 2005 Macfadyen replaced Lord MacLean as chairman of the Sentencing Commission and embarked upon a review of the arrangements for early release and the supervision of prisoners on their release. He was also chairman of the Judges' Forum and the International Bar Association, serving as vice-chairman of the latter from 2000 until 2004.

Despite this busy legal schedule, Macfadyen also spent seven years as chairman of the Cockburn Association (one of many judges to chair the body) and took an energetically hands-on approach to protecting Edinburgh's architectural heritage. Despite being a proud Glaswegian, he lived for many years on Northumberland Street in the New Town and was devoted to the city.

Although he was diagnosed with cancer more than a year ago, colleagues believed he had made a full recovery and, within months of his treatment, he was sitting again in the appeal court. Displaying typical courage and tenacity, he remained there until last month.

A devoted family man, he married Christine Hunter in 1971. She and their son, Donnie, who has been capped for Scotland at rugby, and daughter, Katie, survive him.