for a salary or wages, is generally unable to save enough to provide for his old age. Retirement systems have been introduced for the purpose of alleviating hardship and distress that had existed on a large scale for centuries, and also for the purpose of protecting the public treasury from large payments for relief to indigent old people. The statutory construction for which defendants' counsel contend might adversely affect not only the policemen's and firemen's retirement plan, but also the much larger contributory schemes for employees of the Federal Government. Wrath aroused by an individual case, no matter how well-founded and wholesome, must not be permitted to sway our judgment to the extent of leading us to cut loose from our moorings and devise a new rule for the occasion, which may plague us in the future and possibly impair a well-organized beneficent system.
The defendants' counsel while minimizing the importance of the decision in Rudolph v. Mosheuvel, 37 App.D.C. 76, which is binding on this Court, cite several cases from other jurisdictions. Each of these rulings, however, depends on the phraseology of a different statute.
The statute involved in People ex rel. Brady v. Martin, 145 N.Y. 253, 39 N.E. 960, decided by the New York Court of Appeals in 1885, expressly provided that any member of the police force who had served for a period of twenty years or more, might in the discretion of the Board of Police by a resolution adopted by a majority vote of the full board be retired from service and placed on the pension roll. Thus the law in express terms conferred discretion on the Board of Police to grant to deny retirement. No such provision is found in the statute involved in this case.
The pertinent statute in Pierne v. Valentire, 291 N.Y. 333, 52 N.E.2d 890, provided that the granting of a pension on severance from service for fault or delinquency shall not be a matter of right, but such a pension might be granted by the board of trustees by a two-thirds vote. No similar provision is contained in the District of Columbia Act.
People ex rel. Hardy v. Greene, 87 App.Div. 589, 84 N.Y.S. 673, is a decision of a New York intermediate appellate court rendered in 1903. The result was reached by a vote of three to two. A vigorous dissenting opinion urged that the relators's right to a pension was indefeasible. Consequently great weight may not be attached to this case, especially as against the authority of the Court of Appeals for this Circuit, Rudolph v. Mosheuvel, 37 App.D.C. 76.
The remaining opinions cited by defendants' counsel either fail to state the content of the pertinent statute or else do not deal with the point presented here. Consequently they are not helpful.
There is no doubt that the Metropolitan Police Department has the power to try the plaintiff on charges, and if found guilty to punish him either by a fine, or other disciplinary penalty, such as removal from the service. It is proper to delay his retirement for a reasonable time for that purpose. The plaintiff, however, has a right to receive the retirement annuity and is entitled to be placed eventually on the retirement roll on the basis of longevity.
The defendants' motions as to Count II of the complaint are denied.