Malawi Court Denies Mercy to Madonna; Singer Files Appeal

    Madonna, David, Mercy AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, BARM/ Fame Pictures

    This time around, Madonna isn't getting into the adoption groove.

    Despite backing from the government and assurances from her lawyer that it was a done deal, a Malawi court today shot down the Material Mom's request to adopt a second child from the African nation on a technicality. The judge chalked up the denial to Madonna not meeting a simple residency requirement—a would-be parent must live in the country 18 to 24 months ahead of time.

    "I must have to decline to grant the application to Madonna," Judge Esme Chombo wrote in a ruling following the closed-door proceeding. The pop icon was not present for the ruling.

    But Madonna, who sought custody of 3-year-old orphan Chifundo "Mercy" James, isn't taking no for answer.

    "I just filed the notice of appeal [with the Supreme Court] on instructions from my client," her lawyer, Alan Chinula, later announced.

    Chombo apparently stuck to the letter of the law in reaching her decision—a law that was skirted back in 2006, when Madonna and then-husband Guy Ritchie adopted David Banda, now 3, amid controversy over calls of favoritism and rule bending.

    Critics voiced similar concerns leading up to today's ruling.

    Chombo noted that the 50-year-old entertainer divides her time miles away from Malawi between homes in New York and London.

    The judge expressed concern that, by allowing Madonna to bypass their own requirements and "removing the very safeguard that is supposed to protect our children, the courts by their pronouncements could actually facilitate trafficking of children by some unscrupulous individuals."

    She also argued that Madonna's good works with the orphanage will still benefit Mercy since she currently resides there.

    "It is evident that Chifundo James no longer is subject to the conditions of poverty at her place of birth," the judge said.

    Madonna arrived in Malawi last week to visit her orphanage, spend time with Mercy and take young David to see his biological father. She filed her adoption request on Monday, stating that the girl's grandmother was unable to properly care for her and seeking custody to give her a better life free from "hardship and emotional trauma."

    (Originally published April 3, 2009, at 5:47 a.m. PT)