OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO, June 1, 1953:
On September 24, 1928, Walter Baker, having terminated 20 years service as a policeman of the City of Pittsburgh, applied to the Police Pension Fund Association of the City of Pittsburgh for the pension due him. The pension was awarded and became effective as of January 1, 1929.
An amicable action in Mandamus was instituted, the matter was argued before a court en banc in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, and an appeal was taken to this Court from the decision of the lower court which ordered the Retirement Board to make monthly payments to Baker in accordance with the original Retirement Act.
The only question before us, therefore, is whether the 1937 Amendment, enacted almost nine years after Baker became a county employe and had begun his payments into the retirement fund, was retroactive to October 1, 1928, thus barring his right to county retirement allowance.
The language of the amendatory act is prospective in that it provides that "Hereafter no person who, at the time of his employment as a county employe, is receiving or is eligible to receive retirement allowance from . . . any other political subdivision . . . shall be eligible to receive, etc."
"Time of employment" can only have two possible meanings: (1) date of original employment; or (2)
Section 56, Art. IV of the Statutory Construction Act of 1937, P.L. 1019, specifically declares that: "No law shall be construed to be retroactive unless clearly and manifestly so intended by the Legislature."
The same Act (Art. V, Sec. 73, 46 P.S. 573), in referring to the construction of amendatory laws, says that "the new provisions shall be construed as effective only from the date when the amendment became effective." The amendment under consideration could not possibly have taken effect prior to March 31, 1937; and Walter Baker had then already been employed by the County of Allegheny for over eight years.
It is a fundamental rule of statutory construction that the Legislature is presumed not to have intended to violate the Constitution of the United States or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Statutory Construction Act, Art. IV, Sec. 56 (46 P.S. 556). To read into the Amendment of 1937 a retroactivity to 1928 would be to take it out of the orbit of our Constitution which prohibits the passage of any law "impairing the obligation of contracts." (Const. of Pennsylvania, Art. I, sec. 17.)
When the legislation in question was passed, appellee already had been a member of, and had contributed to,
The appellant here cites Retirement Board of Allegheny County v. McGovern, et al., 316 Pa. 161, as authority for the proposition that Baker's rights in 1937 under the County retirement system were only inchoate and not vested. But the reference to "inchoate" rights in that decision must be considered with the rest of Justice KEPHART'S opinion. In showing that the rights of an employe to participate in the benefits of a retirement system may not be taken away from him, once he has entered into the retirement system, Justice KEPHART considered, in illustration, the Retirement Acts relating to judges: (p. 171) "When, to bring all employees under one general retirement system, the inducement was offered
In the case of Kane v. Policemen's Fund, 336 Pa. 540, a retired Pittsburgh policeman entitled to pension from the City of Pittsburgh, obtained employment, in 1927, as Chief of Police of Mt. Lebanon. In 1935 a statute was enacted (May 22, 1935, P.L. 233) which provided: "Any beneficiary of the fund who may obtain employment in the service of the city itself or county or State, or any political sub-division thereof, shall suffer suspension of his pension from the fund during the time of such employment." Kane's city pension was suspended under the 1935 statute, but this Court affirmed the Common Pleas Court's reinstatement of the pension. In considering the argument of one of the parties in that litigation, this Court approved the statement: "The pension right of a member of the old fund . . . was a contract right, a vested right by reason of contract. It may be
Once Baker had entered into the County Retirement system, and had made his first payment, his rights were just as much vested as they were at the termination of his employment.
To interpret the Amendment of 1937 as divesting the rights of Baker acquired from 1928 to 1937, would be an out-and-out impairment of contractual obligations. It would, moreover, require giving to the word "Hereafter" a meaning never previously attributed to it. It is conceded that words can have a variety of interpretations, depending on context, circumstance, history and juxtaposition to other words, but there are a few words which are immune to mutation, and retain, regardless of rhetorical climate, only one meaning. "Hereafter" is such a polestar in the sea of language. "Hereafter" as an adverb was never known to have referred to any time but the future. Webster's Unabridged International Dictionary defines this word: "After this in time or order; in some future time or state." The monumental Oxford English dictionary, covering 13 volumes, and which devotes almost a column to the word "hereafter," culling quotations from literature down through the ages, does not mention one use of that word in any connection except the future. If the word "hereafter" in a statute or elsewhere is ever interpreted to mean an event which has already been buried in the tomb of the past for a century or even 8 or 9 years, linguistic chaos is upon us.
Nor can it be argued, without completely turning one's back on grammar, that the word "hereafter" in the statute under consideration, applies only to the moment when the county employe has completed his 20 years'
CONCURRING OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE JONES:
I concur but specifically limit my reason to that portion of the majority opinion which construes the Act here involved to be prospective, that is, that its inhibitation was intended to apply only to employees of the county whose employment began subsequent to the passage of the Act.