Texas Man Credited as World’s Youngest Judge Still on the Bench 20 Years Later
A Texas high school student who won election as a justice of the peace 20 years ago has won some respect over the years.
John Payton was only 18 when he won the election and landed in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s youngest judge, a record he still holds. But over the years he has gained a statewide reputation for creative handling of truancy cases in East Plano, the Dallas Morning News reports.
School officials file most of their cases with Payton because he is both tough and compassionate. Many truants are sentenced to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity, and sometimes he works alongside the teens.
But Payton hasn’t achieved his own educational goals. He has a two-year degree and is still taking some classes toward his bachelor’s degree. He’s also considering law school. But he already earns more than many newbie lawyers, with a salary of $94,752 plus $50 for each wedding he performs.
“It’s been the most exciting career I could have ever gotten involved with,” the 38-year-old Payton told the Dallas Morning News. “Each child, each family that comes before me has a different set of problems that need a little different kind of help.”