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PENNIE V. REIS, 132 U. S. 464 (1889)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Pennie v. Reis, 132 U.S. 464 (1889)

Pennie v. Reis

No. 1260

Submitted December 2, 1889

Decided December 16, 1889

132 U.S. 464

Syllabus

When a pleading misstates the effect and purpose of a statute upon which the party relies, a demurrer to it does not admit the correctness of the construction or that the statute imposes the obligations or confers the rights which the party alleges.

The Legislature of California, in 1878, enacted a statute which provided for the payment of the police force of San Francisco at a rate "which should not exceed $102 a month for each one," subject to the condition that the treasurer of the city and county

"should retain from the pay of each police officer the sum of two dollars per month to be paid into a fund to be known as the police life and health insurance fund."

The act further provided that, upon the death of any member of the police force after June 1, 1878, there should be paid by said treasurer out of said life and health insurance fund to his legal representative the sum of $,1000. On the 4th of March, 1889, this act was repealed and another statute enacted chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 132 U. S. 465

creating "a police relief and pension fund" and transferring to it the police life and health insurance fund which had been created under the other act, and making new and different provisions for the distribution of the new fund. W. was a police officer of the city and county from 1869 until his death on March 13, 1889, after the repealing act had gone into operation. His administrator sued to recover $1,000 from the police life and health insurance fund, which then amounted to $40,000. Held that this fend was a public fund, subject to legislative control, and that W. had no vested interest in it which could not be taken away by the legislature during his lifetime.

The Court, in its opinion, stated the case as follows:

This case comes from the Supreme Court of the State of California. The petitioner is the administrator of one Edward A. Ward, deceased, who was a police officer of the City and County of San Francisco from the 24th of September, 1869, until his death, which occurred on the 13th of March, 1889.

On the 1st of April, 1878, an Act of the Legislature of California was approved entitled

"An act to enable the board of supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco to increase the police force of said city and county, and provide for the appointment, regulation, and payment thereof."

Statutes of California, 1877-78, p. 879. The first section of this act authorized the board of supervisors to increase the existing force of the police, which consisted of one hundred and fifty members, not exceeding 250 more -- the whole number not to make in all more than four hundred -- and provided that they should be appointed and governed in the same manner as the then existing force. The second section declared that the compensation of the two hundred and fifty, or such part thereof as the board might allow, should not exceed $102 a month for each one, and that the compensation of those then in office should continue at the rate prescribed by the acts under which they were appointed until June 1, 1879, when their pay should be fixed by a board of commissioners created under the act; that the police officers then in office should be known as the "old police," and those appointed under the act as the "new police;" and that the officers subsequently appointed to fill vacancies on the old police should receive the chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 132 U. S. 466

same pay as the new police, subject to the condition that the treasurer of said city and county should "retain from the pay of each police officer the sum of two dollars per month, to be paid into a fund to be known as the Police Life and Health Insurance Fund,'" to be administered as provided in the act. The Mayor, Auditor, and Treasurer of the City and County of San Francisco were constituted a board to be known as the "Police Life and Health Insurance Board" and required from time to time to invest, as it might deem best, the moneys of the police life and health insurance fund in various designated securities, to be held by the treasurer, subject to the order of the board. The act declared that upon the death of any member of the police force after the 1st day of June, 1878, there should be paid by the treasurer out of the said life and health insurance fund to his legal representative the sum of one thousand dollars; that in case any officer should resign from bad health or bodily infirmity, there should be paid to him from that fund the amount of the principal which he may have contributed thereto, and that in case such fund should not be sufficient to pay the demand upon it, such demand should be registered and paid in the order of its registry our of the funds as received. Ward having been a police officer wilst this act was in force, the administrator of his estate demanded of the treasurer the one thousand dollars provided by it. There was in the treasury at the time the sum of forty thousand dollars. The treasurer having refused to pay the demand, the administrator applied to the supreme court for a writ of mandate upon him to compel its payment. To the petition for that writ the treasurer demurred on the ground that it did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action or entitle the petitioner to the writ of mandate, or to any relief whatever, and that the Act of the legislature passed March 4, 1889, entitled "An act to create a Police Relief Health and Life Insurance and Pension Fund in the several counties, cities and counties, cities, and towns of this state" was a valid and constitutional enactment. Statutes of California, 1889, p. 56. This act creates a board of trustees of the police relief and pension fund of the police department in each chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 132 U. S. 467

county, city and county, city, or town, to be known as the board of police pension fund commissioners, and provides for its organization and the administration of the fund, and for pensions to officers over sixty years of age who have been in the service over twenty years, to those who have become physically disabled in the performance of their duties, and to the widows and children of those who lose their lives in the discharge of their duties, and for the payment of certain sums of money to the widows or children of those who die from natural causes after ten and less than twenty years' service, and regulates the evidence of disability, and that retired officers shall report to the chief of police at certain stated periods, and perform duty under certain circumstances, and for the forfeiture of pensions by misconduct, and for the meetings of the board, and prescribes their duties as to the fund.

Sections 12 and 13 of the act are as follows:

"SEC. 12. The board of supervisors or other governing authority of any county, city and county, city or town shall, for the purposes of said 'Police Relief and Pension Fund' hereinbefore mentioned, direct the payment annually, and when the tax levy is made, into said fund of the following moneys:"

"First. Not less than five nor more than ten percentum of all moneys collected and received from licenses for the keeping of places wherein spirituous, malt, or other intoxicating liquors are sold. "

"Second. One-half of all moneys received from taxes or from licenses upon dogs. "

"Third