Enter your keyword

Judge Leicester Rock Adams

Capacity: Judge
First appointed as a judge: 2017 (Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg)
Gender: Male
Ethnicity: Coloured
Date of Birth: December 1963
Qualifications: B.Luris (1986) (Wits)

Key judgments:

Candidate Bio | Updated April 2024

Judge Leicester Adams is a judge of the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg.

In his nearly 30 years of legal practice as an attorney between 1986 and 2016, Adams is most proud of the fact that he trained 20 law graduates into fully-fledged attorneys. Some of them refer to him in the formal ‘Mr Adams’, others simply call him ‘Mr A’, but all of them agree that he is the strictest disciplinarian anyone is likely to encounter in their life.
Indeed, Adams himself in his JSC application form says:

“During my training of these young legal minds I had instilled in them a sense of maintaining high ethical and professional standards… And all persons tutored by me were made to understand that, in the interests of justice, they, as practitioners, should strive to bring to finality all legal disputes…as soon as practically possible.”

After obtaining his B.Proc law degree from Wits University in 1986, Adams immediately went into practice. Starting off as a candidate attorney at Azar Attorneys and Rovetti Attorneys (1986 – 1989), he then became an associate attorney (‘professional assistant’) at several law firms in Johannesburg.

He joined Lindsay Keller Attorneys in January 1991, and would spend the next 25 years at the firm. He rose from associate attorney (1991), to partner (1995) and to managing partner (2006 to 2016). He enjoyed a diverse practice including criminal litigation, insurance litigation, personal injury claims, commercial law, labour law, and property law.
Adams was appointed a judge of the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg in 2017.

As a judge (including as an acting judge), Adams has written several reported judgments. This includes NDPP v Airport Clinic JHB International, where the National Prosecuting Authority sought an asset forfeiture order for foreign currency. Adams ruled that, although Airport Clinic failed to declare the foreign currency in terms of the exchange control regulations, there was no evidence put up by the NDPP to dispute Airport Clinic’s version that the foreign currency was earned through legitimate services as a travel clinic and not unlawful activities. As such, he dismissed the NDPP’s application.

Since his permanent elevation to the bench in 2017, Adams has a record of six reported judgments. Nine of his judgments have been taken on appeal but only three have been overturned by the appellate courts. In one judgment, Occupiers of Erven 87 & 88 Berea v De Wet N.O., involving the mass eviction of dozens of people from a high-rise building in the Johannesburg city centre, the Constitutional Court criticised Adams’ failure to inquire into the personal circumstances of the evictees, and refusing a rescission of the original eviction order that had been erroneously granted.

Adams is actively involved in the running of the high court, including membership of the Commercial Crimes and Family Court Committee; and the Continuing Judicial Education & Training Committee. In the latter committee he assists fellow judges with training and mentorship.

Adams was a member of the Black Lawyers’ Association from 2008 to 2016, and of the Law Society of the Northern Province from 1986 to 2016 – including a decade as a member of its disciplinary committee.
From November 2023 he acted as a judge of the Electoral Court, a rather busy time, with the unprecedented 2024 general elections coming up.

Adams wrote the judgment in Februarie v Phillips, a dispute by two opposing factions over the membership, leadership, constitution, and the very ‘soul’ of the Siyathemba Community Movement, a political party registed in the Pixley ka Seme District Municipality in the arid town of De Aar in the Northern Cape. Both factions claimed to have been duly elected in terms of the party’s constitution, and each claimed to have the legitimacy to fire the other faction from the local municipal council. The applicants, a faction led by Ronald Februarie, sought declaratory orders that they were the legitimate leaders of the party and should replace the respondent faction, led by Johan Phillips, as councillors in the municipality. After examining the party’s constitution and the law, Adams found that there were no grounds for the declaratory order sought by the Februarie faction and thus dismissed the application with costs.

Adams also sat in one of the most consequential cases this election season: African National Congress v Electoral Commission of SA, an essentially political dispute between the ruling African National Congress and the upstart Mkhonto Wesizwe party, but which found its way to court – an increasingly common problem in South Africa.
In that case, the ANC sought to review and set aside the Independent Electoral Commissions decision to register the MK Party, which is the most serious threat to the ANC’s electoral fortunes. While the judgment dismissing the ANC’s review was written in the name of the Court (made up of 5 panel members) Adams was one of two judges who read the judgment in open court before live TV cameras.

Adams now wants a permanent appointment to the Electoral Court.

April 2024 Interview

October 2023 interview

Judge Leicester Rock Adams’ October 2023 interview for a position on the Electoral Court was unsuccessful. He was not nominated for appointment.

Within the first 5 minutes of the interview, it was very clear that Johannesburg Judge Leicester Adams was not getting the job on the Electoral Court. While smart and hardworking, Chief Justice Zondo’s questions on Adam’s exposure to electoral disputes showed that he had limited experience in the field, which was not entirely his fault. Judge President Zondi put up a valiant effort in trying to examine Adam’s other impressive qualities but it was too little too late – the interview ended within 40 mins.

October 2016 interview

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng opened Adams interview with the customary “looseners” saved for candidates about their career history before the Gauteng High Court Judge President Dunstan Mlambo quizzed Adams on his experiences acting in that division’s various courts.

Adams, said he found the experience of working in one of the country’s busiest courts “required a lot of hard work” because “being on the Bench is a really pressurised position” but that it was “a challenge that I cherish”. He added that acting in the various courts — from appeals to motion court — had prepared him for a position on the Bench.

Gauteng education minister Panyaza Lesufi quizzed Adams about his political activism as a student and as a lawyer. On the latter, Adams said that when he was admitted as an attorney he had spent much if his time developing young black attorneys and transforming his law firm which was “lily-white” when he joined.

Asked by commissioner Narend Singh of the IFP about what characteristics he possessed to make him a successful judge, Adams listed his being “decisive”, his “integrity” and the “ability to detach yourself form the matters” before you.