Cane Ridge high student flexes young arm of the law

Originally published in the Tennessean. Written by Heidi Hall.   

Calvin Jenkins, who handled both sides of Cane Ridge truancy cases, plans to major in law at Lipscomb.
Calvin Jenkins, who handled both sides of Cane Ridge truancy cases, plans to major in law at Lipscomb. / Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean

Calvin Jenkins worked his legal magic on both sides of cases before the Cane Ridge Restorative Court this year — either defending freshmen against truancy charges or leading them down the path to a confession. It’s the program’s first year at Cane Ridge High School’s Academy of Law. Students get coaching fromTennessee Bar Association lawyers and a glimpse of a possible future career.

For Jenkins, a senior, his love of the law developed many years before the high school program, and it came from an unlikely source.

Give me an example of the cases that come before youth court at Cane Ridge.

A younger student would be charged with truancy, admit to the charges, and then come here and be interviewed by his defense lawyers. Those lawyers would come up with things the child is good at or what he likes to do, and then he would get to do that type of community service. Or he may have to do what the opposing side says to do, the prosecution.

Did you handle only truancy cases in the court this year?

That’s all the cases that we’ve had this year. They said we were going to get different ones later. Those might be for fighting in school or destruction of school property.

Which role do you prefer? Defense attorney or prosecutor?

I prefer the prosecution. There’s just something about getting the defendant up there, having them nervous, just having them choke on their words.

What interested you in joining the youth court program?

We actually did some mock trials in criminal justice class. I played one of the lawyers in that, and it turned out real well. It sparked my interest. It also looked good on my college resume.

Are you going to pursue the law?

I am actually going to major in law at Lipscomb University.

Why did you choose Lipscomb?

I visited the school a couple times because my brother used to go there. I just liked it. I’ve been around their basketball program a little and seen how they operate. I’m going to try and walk on.

It’s really close to home. I can’t be too far away from my mom.

What do you like about the law?

I like the many different job opportunities that somebody could get. There’s not just one field. There are a lot of things you can do in it. You can be a sports attorney, a divorce attorney, all different types of things.

Would you like to be a trial lawyer?

It’s very intriguing and exhilarating. The lawyers from the Tennessee Bar Association who attended the trials said I would make a good lawyer.

Does that mean you like to argue with your friends?

Oh yes. I’m just listening to what they’re saying, and then twisting up their words to get them to be quiet. It works every time.

How about with your family?

I have three brothers, two older, one younger. I live here in Antioch with my mom. I especially argue with my younger brother. We argue about everything.

Did you consider the law as a career before joining youth court?

I’ve actually been interested in becoming a lawyer since I was 5 or 6 years old from watching “Law & Order.” It’s not a typical thing that a young child would be watching, but it was interesting to me.

Have you lived in Nashville your whole life?

I’m originally from Chicago. First I moved to Houston, and then I moved here to Nashville around the summer before sixth grade.

Was that a big adjustment?

Yes, very. Being from Chicago, everything was just fast. Moving down South, it got slower, but Houston is still a big city. Things are still fast. Moving here, everything got very slow. There wasn’t as much to do.

And yet you’re still going to college here.

I don’t have a problem with being here, but it’s just not the same.