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Henry v. Tax Appraisal District of Bell County

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

December 18, 2013

Robert James HENRY, Appellant
v.
TAX APPRAISAL DISTRICT OF BELL COUNTY, Appellee

From the 169th Judicial District Court, Bell County, Texas Trial Court No. 233, 829-C The Honorable Gordon G. Adams, Judge Presiding

Sitting: Karen Angelini, Justice Marialyn Barnard, Justice Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Marialyn Barnard, Justice

AFFIRMED

After denying a motion for continuance filed by appellant Robert James Henry, the trial court subsequently entered an in rem judgment in favor of appellee Tax Appraisal District of Bell County ("the District"). Henry appeals, contending the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion for continuance and that such denial was so arbitrary as to violate due process. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

Background

On January 9, 2009, the District sued Valencia T. Henry and Athela R. Henry seeking to collect delinquent taxes owed on real property located in Bell County, Texas for tax years 2003 through 2007. A second amended petition filed on January 25, 2011, named appellant Henry as a defendant and sought to collect delinquent taxes owed on the same piece of property for tax years 2004 through 2010. Trial on the matter was initially set for November 17, 2011.

On the day of the first trial setting, Henry filed a motion for continuance claiming he was unable to attend trial due to hospitalization, and that ownership of the property was currently in dispute and awaiting a ruling from the Texas Third Court of Appeals in the case styled Henry v. Henry, No. 03-11-00253[1]. The trial court granted the continuance and the case was initially reset for trial on June 21, 2012, but later reset at the District's request for trial on July 19, 2012.

On the day of the third trial setting, Henry filed his second motion for continuance, again asserting additional time was necessary based on the appeal pending before the Third Court of Appeals. The trial court granted Henry's second motion for continuance and a new trial date was set for November 15, 2012.

On November 15, 2012, the day of the fourth trial setting, Henry filed his third motion for continuance with the trial court. In this third motion, Henry claimed a continuance was necessary because he was unable to appear at trial due to his incarceration in the Williamson County Jail. He also reasserted the claim that the result of the appeal from the Third Court of Appeals was still pending. The trial court denied the motion explaining:

I don't really see the point in dragging this out. I mean we're talking about taxes from back in '05. It seems like with Mr. Henry, if it's not 'he needs more time for the Third Court, ' it's 'he needs more time because he's in jail, ' and the next time – This is not a comment on [counsel]; you're just representing your client, I understand – but it'll just be something else. So I'm not sure I see the point. And besides that, I've done it at least twice before.

After the motion was denied, the District introduced, without objection, the certified tax affidavit showing the amount of taxes, penalties, and interest due on the subject property. Henry did not present a defense. The trial court then entered judgment in rem in favor of the District for amounts owed pursuant to the tax affidavit. Henry subsequently perfected this appeal.

Analysis

Henry contends the trial court abused its discretion by denying his third motion for continuance. Henry claims the trial court's action was not only harmful to his case, but so ...


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