Taking a curse to court

December 29th, 2008 by admin

By JAMES WALSH, Minneapolis Star Tribune
December 27, 2008

Mary Nabila Muma did not know where to turn. She believed a woman was using voodoo to steal her husband and ruin her life. “I am praying that God will use you to wipe my tears which I had [shed] for 6 years now. It is out of frustration and desperation that I file this case,” says her lawsuit, filed in federal court.

Over the past several years, Muma has spent thousands of dollars on her wandering ex-husband. She said he claims not to know her now because he is under the love spell of another woman. Muma, a devoutly religious woman, said she prayed for an answer. God told her to seek justice in court. So Muma now prays that a federal judge will come to her rescue. What, exactly, can a judge do in her case? For starters, she said, the judge could deport the other woman to Cameroon. Then the judge could put her ex-husband in jail.

“I am ready for him to go to jail,” Muma said. “Then this girl will stop the voodoo and he can come back to normal.” Muma’s admittedly unique case is one of about 300 filed in federal court in Minnesota each year by people who come seeking justice but have no attorney. Not counting suits filed by prison inmates, about 10 percent of the federal caseload involves these “pro se” cases. Chief Judge Michael J. Davis recently started working with the Federal Bar Association to connect these plaintiffs with volunteer attorneys — or, Davis said, at least to help them better evaluate the merits of their cases. “I want the public to have access to the court,” Davis said. “And I want to make sure we have a process for people who are pro se to be able to file their lawsuit.”

“As soon as we arrived in America, my husband changed suddenly from a kind, loving man to a very loud, verbally abusive man … God helped me realize that my husband had changed because of Voodoo from Gladys and that was the reason why my marriage failed.”

Muma’s lawsuit tells a story of love, immigration and betrayal. She and her ex-husband, Marcellus Ndanjong Muma, met as teenagers. They were devout — she wanted to be a nun, he wanted to be a priest — but they fell deeply in love. They had a traditional wedding in Cameroon in 2001, and in 2003 they married in a Catholic church in England.

Muma, an intensive care nurse, helped Marcellus also become a nurse, helped him immigrate to America, helped him get a car.

Yet, despite her husband telling her time and again that he would never leave her, Muma says he has done just that, over and over. He has fallen madly in love with Gladys Feh Gwanmesia, who, Mary Muma said, has been using voodoo for years to threaten her and hold on to Marcellus.

There have been times, Muma said, when she has awakened from nightmares with cuts on her body.

Calls to Marcellus Muma and Gladys Gwanmesia were not immediately returned.

Mary and Marcellus Muma were divorced in 2006, and Marcellus has since married Gladys. But Mary Muma said her husband really wants to be with her and their 6-year-old son, Sammy.

She has given Marcellus close to $9,000 this year for the many things he said he needed. Last July, he gave her his Green Card, Social Security card and credit card to keep until he returned to her.

But Mary said Gladys began using stronger voodoo. Last month, Marcellus came to Mary’s St. Paul apartment with two police officers and his uncle to demand the return of his things.

She said she refused. The police told Marcellus to take Mary to court. He returned empty-handed to Maryland, where he and Gladys now live.

“It’s the voodoo,” Mary Muma said matter-of-factly in an interview this week.

Steve Rau, president of the Minnesota chapter of the Federal Bar Association, said there is a need for attorneys to get more involved on behalf of pro se litigants such as Mary. Some people need hands-on attorneys to take their cases through the system. Others need counseling and guidance to help outside the courts.

The Pro Se Project that he and Davis are working on is in its infancy, Rau said. But the idea is to help people better navigate the federal courts.

“The goal of this project, ultimately, is for our district to be able to say, ‘If you are a civil litigant in Minnesota, you will have an opportunity to be represented,'” he said. “You don’t have to go it alone.”

Yet, both Davis and Rau said, there are those who will insist on just that.

“Before my husband left, he prayed and promised to come back home and that he will divorce Gladys and we will remarry…. A few weeks before my husband arrived, he instantly changed and HATED me for no reason.”

To be sure, Rau said, many of the cases filed by pro se litigants may seem a bit odd. One man has filed more than a dozen lawsuits in federal court against President Bush, the CIA and even magicians David Copperfield and Criss Angel for stealing his “godly powers.” But federal judges here are committed to giving people access to the courts, he said. For a $350 filing fee — which can be reduced or waived — people get the opportunity to be heard.

“As a lawyer, I think it’s cool that people still have a sense that they can find relief in the federal courts,” he said. “It speaks well of our system.”

People have told Muma that her husband is a bad man who uses her. It has nothing to do with voodoo, they say.

But she is certain he is under a spell. Why else would he shun his own son, who lives in Cameroon with his grandmother, or refuse to speak with his own mother?

In the lawsuit, Mary Muma said she will keep Marcellus’ green card and other items he left with her until he fulfills his promise to return to her.

She has no plans to hire a lawyer.

“I have a lawyer,” she said, pointing upwards. “My lawyer is Jesus, without a doubt.”

What will she do if, despite all the prayers, the courts cannot help her?

“I will keep praying,” she said.