J. Dudley Digges, 71, a retired judge of Maryland's highest court and a former president of the State Bar Association, died of cancer Feb. 25 at his home in La Plata, Md.

Judge Digges served on the Court of Appeals from 1969 until 1982, when he retired at the statutory age of 70. From 1949 until he went to the Court of Appeals, he was a judge of the 7th Judicial Circuit, which includes St. Mary's, Calvert, Charles and Prince George's counties.

In 1974, he wrote the opinion in that disbarred former vice president and Maryland governor Spiro T. Agnew after Agnew's no contest plea to charges of income tax evasion.

"It is difficult to feel compassion for an attorney who is so morally obtuse that he consciously cheats for his own pecuniary gain that government he has sworn to serve, completely disregards the words of the oath he uttered when first admitted to the bar, and absolutely fails to perceive his professional duty to act honestly in all matters," Judge Digges wrote for a unanimous court.

Judge Digges, a lifelong resident of La Plata, graduated from la Plata High School, St. John's College in Annapolis and the University of Maryland law school. In 1936, he established a private law practice in Upper Marlboro with former representative Lansdale G. Sasscer. In World War II, he served in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

After he retired from the bench, Judge Digges was appointed by Gov. Harry Hughes to head the Maryland Heritage Committee, which is overseeing arrangements for the obsevance next year of the 350th anniversary of the founding of Maryland. He also was chairman of the Court of Appeals Rules Committee and a former president of the Southern Maryland Society.

Judge Digges received honorary doctorates of law from the University of Maryland and St. Mary's College of Maryland.

On hearing of his death, Gov. Hughes ordered flags on the State House and the Court of Appeals in Annapolis flown at half staff.

Judge Digges, a bachelor, is survived by a sister, Mrs. Calvin Harrington Jr. of Cambridge, Md., and two brothers, W. Mitchell Digges Jr. and Edward S. Digges, both of La Plata.