Massachusetts Board of Retirement v. MURGIA 427 U.S. 307 (1976)

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MASSACHUSETTS BOARD OF RETIREMENT v. MURGIA 427 U.S. 307 (1976)

inMurgia the Supreme Court, asked to subject age discrimination to heightened judicial scrutiny, declined the invitation, 7–1. In a per curiam opinion the Court upheld a state law limiting membership in the uniformed state police to persons under the age of fifty, irrespective of an older person's ability to pass physical or other tests of qualification. There was not a murmur in the Court's opinion about irrebuttable presumptions, nor was age a suspect classification; although the aged were not free from discrimination, they had not experienced "purposeful unequal treatment" or disabilities imposed "on the basis of stereotyped characteristics not truly indicative of their abilities." With that breathtaking inaccuracy behind it, the Court applied the most permissive form of rational basis review, noted that physical ability generally declines with age, and concluded that because the mandatory retirement rule was not "wholly unrelated" to the objective of maintaining a physically fit police force, the law was valid. Justice thurgood marshall, in lone dissent, repeated his long-standing argument that the Court should abandon its "two-tier" system of standards of review in favor of a system that matched the level of judicial scrutiny in equal protection cases to the interests at stake in each case.

Kenneth L. Karst
(1986)