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Palma v. Harris County Appraisal Review Board

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

August 1, 2019

MICHAEL FRANCIS PALMA, Appellant
v.
HARRIS COUNTY APPRAISAL REVIEW BOARD, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 157th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2018-17668.

          Panel consists of Justices Keyes, Kelly, and Goodman.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Evelyn V. Keyes Justice.

         In this case arising out of a property tax dispute, Michael Palma, the beneficiary of a trust that owned real property in Harris County, Texas, filed a petition for review against the Harris County Appraisal Review Board (the Board), challenging the Board's determination of his protest for the 2017 tax year. The Board filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that it was not a proper party to the suit and that Palma should have sued the Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) instead. Palma sought leave to amend his petition for review, arguing that he misstated the sections of the Texas Tax Code that formed the basis for his petition, but he did not seek to name HCAD as a party to the suit. The trial court granted the Board's plea to the jurisdiction, denied Palma's motion for leave to amend, and dismissed Palma's suit against the Board with prejudice. On appeal, Palma argues that he had the right to amend his petition for review and that the trial court's failure to allow amendment of his petition violated his due process rights.

         We affirm.

         Background

         The 6205 Trust owns residential real property located on Autumn Forest Drive in Houston, Texas, and it holds this property in trust for the benefit of Palma. In 2017, HCAD appraised the market value of this property at $165, 019. Palma, as he had done in 2015 and 2016, [1] filed a written notice of protest of the appraised value of the property and sought a hearing before the Board. The written notice of protest included a space for Palma to state the reason for his protest. Palma stated: "Tax Code 41.41(a)(3) and 41.42." See Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 41.41(a)(3) (providing that property owner is entitled to protest "inclusion of the owner's property on the appraisal records" before appraisal review board); id. § 41.42 (providing that property owner may protest inclusion of owner's property on appraisal records on basis that property does not have taxable situs in appraisal district).

         On November 20, 2017, the Board sent Palma two notices informing him that he had hearings scheduled before the Board on December 12, 2017. The first notice stated that "[t]his particular hearing will consider the issues raised in the written protest: determination of the situs of the property." The second notice stated that "[t]his particular hearing will consider the issues raised in the written protest: market value of the property and related matters." The appellate record does not include a record of what occurred at the hearings before the Board.

         On January 16, 2018, the Board issued a written "Order Determining Protest." In this order, the Board lowered the appraised market value of Palma's property from $165, 019 to $164, 900 and ordered that the appraisal records be changed accordingly. Also on January 16, 2018, the Board issued an order on Palma's challenge to the situs of his property, stating that the Board determined that the appraisal roll should not be changed and that Palma's property would continue to be taxed in jurisdictions including the City of Houston, Houston Independent School District, Harris County, and related Harris County taxing units. Both orders informed Palma of his right to file a petition for review of the Board's orders in the district court.

         Palma timely filed a petition for review with the Harris County district court on March 16, 2018. His petition named the Board as the sole defendant. Palma alleged:

1. On December 12, 2017 for tax year 2017 the Defendant implemented a situs and value hearing on the plaintiff['s] property.
2. On Jan[uary] 16, 2018 for tax year 2017 the Defendant received the Order[]s Determining Protest[]s as attached.
3. I am hereby challenging the defendant[']s determination that the plaintiff['s] property is "located in this state" or has "situs" within the 60 day deadline as stated in Tex. ...

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