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Court Reverses Order Requiring Divorced Father To Carry ‘Need Job’ Sign

November 12, 1992

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ A judge was wrong to make a man carry a sign in public stating, ″Need Job To Support Children,″ an appeals court ruled Thursday, calling the punishment ″a throwback to the days of stockades.″

The three-member Indiana Court of Appeals panel said the judge’s ruling was inappropriate and excessive and held up Clarence William Epley III to public ridicule.

″It is a throwback to the days of stockades and conjures up images of Puritans who fell from grace and were forced to wear scarlet letters upon their chests,″ Judge William I. Garrard wrote for the appellate panel.

Superior Court Judge Eugene N. Chipman Sr. forced Epley, who had fallen behind in child support payments, to walk around the courthouse in Plymouth wearing the sign in September 1991.

Epley, 45, did so for a few days before finding a job on a street department crew, Chipman said.

″The evidence was he just was not making an effort to get out and get a job,″ said Chipman, a former appellate court judge. ″He was playing golf and really living the life of Riley.

″I thought this might motivate him,″ said Chipman. The judge said he issued a similar order to another man who also found a job.

Chipman handed down the order after finding Epley had fallen $1,475 behind in payments for his three children. Epley, who lives in Culver, came up with $1,000 after spending one week in jail for comtempt of court but was still ordered to wear the sign.

″I didn’t think it was right,″ Epley said Thursday. ″I don’t think he was very fair.″

According to court records, Epley earned $400 a week when his divorce became final in the summer of 1990. He was ordered to pay $165 per week in child support.

In November 1990, he lost his job. After that, he worked one night a week as a bartender and did odd jobs, and his payments were lowered to $90.

His ex-wife, Cathy Jo Epley, went to court to force him to pay.

Epley currently has a seasonal job raking leaves for the town of Culver, in northern Indiana, and worked last winter at a golf course in Florida and on construction jobs.

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