1998, Aleta Grillos Trauger 68 became the first female
U.S. District judge in the Middle District of Tennessee.
After graduating from Cornell, Trauger taught in England for a
year and in Tennessee for two years. Realizing education was not
her calling, she enrolled in law school at Vanderbilt University
and graduated in 1976.
She worked as a law clerk and later as an associate at a small
Nashville firm from 1974 o 1977. She then went to work as an assistant
U.S. attorney for five years in Nashville and Chicago and in 1981
prosecuted former Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton for selling liquor
licenses while he was in office. She served as Nashville Mayor Phil
Bredesens chief of staff for a year in the early 1990s.
Trauger met Vice President Al Gore when they attended Vanderbilt
Law School in the mid-1970s, and she was a Clinton-Gore delegate
in 1992. She was appointted as a U.S. Bankruptcy judge in 1993,
and in October 1998, the Senate approved President Clintons
nomination that made her a U.S. District judge.
In March 2000, she was called upon to determine the fate of condemned
inmate Robert Glen Coe, the first person Tennessee execu ed in 40
Trauger is a Cornell trustee. She and her husband, Byron, live
in Nashville with their daughter, Katherine.
The Case: Perry March v. Lawrence Levine and Carolyn Levine
Perry March had custody of his two young biological children, Samson
Leo and Tzipora Josette, when he moved to Mexico for a job. The
children were attending school and had been in Mexico for about
a year when the childrens maternal grandparents, Lawrence
and Carolyn Levine, abducted them and took them to Nashville.
The Levines alleged that Perry March had killed their daughter,
the childrens mother. They relied in large part on a default
judgment they obtained in a wrongful death action against March;
the judgment declared Jane Gail Levine March dead based solely upon
the Levines pleadings, which had gone unanswered by Perry
They argued he children would be at risk if returned to their father.
They also asserted returning the children to Mexico would violate
human rights and international freedoms. The grandparents
said March was engaged in shady business dealings and
was living in a bigamous relationship.
Perry March provided a sworn declaration that he did not kill his
wife but rather stated she simply drove away one evening.
He testified he knew of no evidence that she was deceased and said
he was appealing the default judgment.
March filed his Petition for Return of Children under the International
Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), asserting they were wrongfully
removed from their home in violation of his custody rights and the
Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
The Levines moved to dismiss Marchs petition on the basis
of the fugitive disentitlement doctrine. They argued
March was not entitled to bring this petition because he was a fugitive
from two arrest warrants arising out of criminal contempt orders.
The contempt orders stemmed from Marchs failure to provide
the Levines with a telephone number for the children at all times
and for failing to return a baby quilt and beaded purse to the Levines.
Judge Trauger denied the motion to dismiss and ordered the children
immediately be returned to their father in Mexico at the Levines
expense. After a delay while the case was in appeal, the 6th U.S.
Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Traugers order.