FULL TEXT: San Francisco, Dec. 10. – The pauper’s oath [see definition below] was established today an a new refuge for “alimony martyrs” who are sent to jail because they failed to maintain payments to former wives.
Neil McNulty, unemployed stevodore, used the oath before Judge W. P. Johnson for the first time on record in California and it got him out of it jail term.
McNulty already was under sentence because his alimony payments were $1300 in arrears, but he pleaded lack of employment. Given time to find a job, McNulty still was unsuccessful and so he hit upon the pauper's oath as a way out.
Judge Johnson then administered the oath, released McNulty from the jail term and delivered a sharp criticism of the practice of imprisoning men for alimony delinquencies when it is shown they are jobless. Another judge had sentenced McNulty.
[“Escapes Alimony By Pauper Oath – Unemployment – S. F. Man Sets Precedent in State's Jurisprudence,” The Bakersfield Californian (Ca.), Dec. 10, 1931, p. 2]
PAUPER’S OATH: A pauper's oath is a sworn statement or oath by a person that he or she is completely destitute or a pauper, i.e. without any money or property. A person without the ability to pay court costs has the option to swear a pauper’s oath in order to file a lawsuit without paying filing fees. Prisoners filing legal actions often use a pauper's oath because persons in prison are often completely without money or any means of acquiring any. Historically, especially during the Great Depression, the pauper's oath was required as a prerequisite for receiving welfare or other forms of government relief in the United States.
One pauper’s oath used when establishing indigent status under United States Federal law is as follows:
“I do solemnly swear that I have not any property, real or personal, exceeding $20, except such as is by law exempt from being taken on civil process for debt; and that I have no property in any way conveyed or concealed, or in any way disposed of, for my future use or benefit. So help me God.” [Wikipedia]