split image of marc griffin holding a book and headshot

Although many people might be judgmental of a 17-year-old judge, that didn’t deter Marc Griffin.

On 19 February 1974, Marc was appointed a Justice of the Peace in Greenwood, Indiana, USA, at just 17 years old, making him the youngest judge (male).


During his high school years, Marc dedicated his time to studying Indiana statutory law. 

In January 1974, he graduated early from high school, leaving him with an abundance of free time. 

It was during that period that he became intrigued by the position of Justice of the Peace for White River Township, Indiana, which he had discovered during his studies.

However, when Marc inquired about the position with county officials and area politicians, he was met with incorrect information. 

“They informed me that there had never been a Justice of the Peace in White River Township and questioned how I could intend to fill a vacancy of office that had never existed,” he said. 

I was quick to correct them, explaining that the law provided for the position and that it had simply gone unfilled for the past 50 years.

Prior to Marc being elected, the last Justice of the Peace to be elected in White River Township was in 1914, meaning there was a vacancy of office from the late 1910s until he was appointed in 1974. 

The state attorney general opined that Marc was too young to hold office, but a circuit court found he was qualified.

The vacancy Marc filled was for a term that expired on 31 December 1974, so he had to run for office in 1974 to succeed his appointive term.


Marc says from his adolescence onward, he held a steadfast aspiration to become a lawyer. 

“I envisioned that perhaps, after practising law for a number of years, I might eventually ascend to the bench as a judge,” he said. 

It never occurred to me that I would assume the role of a judge prior to embarking on my career as a lawyer.

On 6 April 1974, Marc opened his courtroom in Greenwood, Indiana, and heard cases for the first time. 

He adjudicated civil small claims cases such as debt collection, dishonoured checks, landlord-tenant issues, and property damage. 

He also heard misdemeanor cases including vehicle moving violations, breach of the peace, shoplifting, and assault.

Marc enjoyed resolving disputes in civil cases and administering justice in criminal cases but had a hard time convincing people that he was actually the judge in their case and not some teenager who wandered into the courtroom.

Although he juggled a rigorous court docket with numerous cases, Marc also embraced the responsibility of solemnizing marriages, which he was doing when he was below the marriage age in Indiana.


“One wedding stands out vividly in my memory: a couple eager to become the inaugural married pair in Indiana for 1975, with me presiding over their ceremony at the exact moment the clock struck midnight on December 31, 1974,” he said. 

“I arranged for access to the county courthouse, where I conducted the ceremony in its grand rotunda as the new year commenced. 

“Additionally, I arranged for the sheriff to provide them with a police escort as they departed from the courthouse.”

As Marc did some legal research for a case, he came across an article about John Payton who held a Guinness World Records title for the youngest judge (male) after winning election as Justice of the Peace at the age of 18 in Plano, Texas.

He provided Guinness World Records with evidence verifying his appointment at age 17. 

“I contacted Guinness Word Records 37 years after the fact because I didn’t realize the publication covered judicial records,” he said. 

I thought they were just records of stunts, like doing the most jumping jacks.

Marc was glad to learn of his new record title and says his friends and family were excited for him as well. 


“I was extremely pleased to have been awarded the title by Guinness World Records,” he said. 

"I only wish I could have submitted my application at the time instead of 37 years later.”

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