Massachusetts Bd. of Retirement v. Murgia
427 U.S. 307 (1976)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Massachusetts Bd. of Retirement v. Murgia, 427 U.S. 307 (1976)

Massachusetts Board of Retirement v. Murgia

No. 74-1044

Argued December 10, 1975

Decided June 25, 1976

427 U.S. 307

Syllabus

A Massachusetts statute making it mandatory for a uniformed state police officer to retire at age 50 held not to deny equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

(a) Rationality, rather than strict scrutiny, is the proper standard for determining whether the statute violates equal protection. Equal protection analysis requires strict scrutiny of a legislative classification only when it impermissibly interferes with the exercise of a fundamental right or operates to the peculiar disadvantage of a suspect class. Here, mandatory retirement at 50 does not implicate any fundamental right of a uniformed state police officer over that age, since a right of governmental employment per se is not fundamental, and the class of such officers over 50 does not constitute a suspect class, since classifications based on age are not considered suspect.

(b) Since physical ability generally declines with age, mandatory retirement at 50 serves to remove from police service those whose fitness for uniformed police work has presumptively diminished with age and is, therefore, rationally related to the State's announced legitimate objective of protecting the public by assuring the physical preparedness of its uniformed police. There is no indication that the statute has the effect of excluding from service so few officers who are in fact unqualified as to render age 50 a criterion wholly unrelated to such objective. While the State perhaps has not chosen the best means to accomplish its purpose, where rationality is the test, a statute "does not violate the Equal Protection Clause merely because the classifications made by [it] are imperfect." Dandridge v. Williams,397 U. S. 471, 397 U. S. 485.

376 F.Supp. 753 and 386 F.Supp. 179, reversed.

Page 427 U. S. 308

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