On rule to show cause why a writ of certiorari should not issue.
For the prosecutor, Lum, Tamblyn & Colyer and Charles E. McCraith, Jr.
For the defendant, Horace L. Allen.
Before Brogan, Chief Justice, and Justices Trenchard and Heher.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
HEHER, J. The applicant invokes the jurisdiction of this court to review, by certiorari, a resolution of the Board of Pension Commissioners of the city of Hoboken, denying his petition for a pension from the fund created under the provisions of the act establishing a system for the retirement of policemen and firemen in the several municipalities of this state. Pamph. L. 1920, p. 324.
He rendered continuous service, as a member of the fire department of the city of Hoboken, from May 1st, 1904, to January 25th, 1933, when he confessed his guilt of charges of misconduct, in violation of departmental rules and regulations, one of which, it is stipulated, "embraces embezzlement by him of moneys of the Hoboken Firemen's Relief Association," and was thereupon dismissed from the service. The validity of his dismissal is not at issue. On February 23d, 1933, after his dismissal, he presented to the pension commission his application "for retirement on half pay
by reason of his having attained the age of fifty years and having honorably served for a period of twenty years in the said Hoboken fire department." Concededly, he reached the voluntary retirement age of fifty years on August 28th, 1925.
The question of the right of one of the statutory class, so circumstanced, to a pension is presented for the first time in this jurisdiction, and we are of opinion that it must be resolved in the negative. It is essentially one of statutory construction. The act provides (section 1) that any member of the police or fire department, in a municipality where its provisions have become effective, "who shall have honorably served in such police or fire department for a period of twenty years, and attained the age of fifty, shall, upon his own application, be retired on half pay, and any member of any such police or fire department who shall have honorably served for a period of twenty years and attained the age of sixty-five years shall be retired on half pay * * *."
The legislative purpose is not open to doubt. The statutory scheme is to make retirement compulsory at the age of sixty-five years, and optional with the member after he has reached the age of fifty years, unless he shall sooner sustain "permanent disability in the performance of his duty," in which event he shall, upon the certificate of the departmental surgeon or physician, or other physician designated by the pension commission, be retired upon the prescribed pension. "Retirement" connotes membership surrendered or lost at the instant of time it becomes effective. Moreover, honorable service is a sine qua non. The underlying considerations for this policy are manifest. A contrary policy would make for departmental inefficiency. The inducement for efficient and conscientious service, after the member attained the age of fifty years, would be immeasurably lessened, if he could, in the event of a conviction of charges of misconduct, insist that his dismissal be accompanied by the statutory pension. It is not incumbent upon a municipality, or other division of government, to establish a system of pensions. It is rather a question of public policy. The pensioning of civil servants, as well as those in private employment, is designed
primarily to attain a high standard of service at a relatively low wage cost. A basic consideration is that a guaranty against want, when the years of productivity have ended, will heighten the morale of the workers and enhance the quality of the service rendered. And that being so, it goes without saying that one of its fundamental purposes is to ...