Appeal from the 129th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2017-79969
consists of Justices Lloyd, Goodman, and Landau.
BETH LANDAU JUSTICE
H. Mikulin appeals from a final judgment issued in a suit to
collect delinquent ad valorem taxes. The trial court ordered
Mikulin to pay $66, 855.74 in delinquent taxes, among other
things, to various taxing authorities. In three issues,
Mikulin contends the trial court erred by entering a final
judgment against him because (1) the trial court lacked
subject-matter jurisdiction over the tax suit; (2) the form
of payment in which the trial court ordered him to pay his
taxes is unconstitutional; and (3) there is a conflict
between the United States Constitution and the Texas law. We
County,  the City of Houston, Houston Independent
School District, and Houston Community College System
(collectively, "Harris County") brought an action
against Mikulin seeking to recover delinquent ad valorem
taxes under Section 33.41 of the Texas Tax Code
for tax years 2016 and 2017. In its amended petition, Harris
County sought to recover "[t]he total aggregate amount
of taxes, penalties, interest, and attorney's fees,"
including additional taxes, penalties, interest, and
attorney's fees that accrued after it filed its amended
trial court held a hearing on the tax delinquency. Mikulin
appeared at this hearing pro se. Harris County introduced
evidence in support of the delinquency, including certified
tax statements, affidavits, and deed records for
Mikulin's home located in Houston, Harris County, Texas.
The trial court asked Mikulin whether he had made any
payments to the taxing authorities. In response, Mikulin
acknowledged that he had not paid his tax debts and then
tendered a "conditional payment" in the form of a
document explaining why, in his view, he was not required to
pay his tax debts because they were unconstitutional. The
trial court entered a judgment against Mikulin and ordered
him to pay taxes in the amount of $66, 855.74, plus
"penalties, interest, and attorney's fees, with
penalty and interest continuing to accrue . . . from the date
of trial until paid or sold, plus all costs of court."
first issue, Mikulin argues that the trial court lacked
subject-matter jurisdiction because only Congress, and not
the judiciary, has the authority to rule on issues involving
Standard of review
jurisdiction is essential to the authority of a court to
decide a case. Bland Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Blue, 34
S.W.3d 547, 553 (Tex. 2000). A court has the power to dispose
of every issue once it acquires subject-matter jurisdiction.
Mladenka v. Mladenka, 130 S.W.3d 397, 400 (Tex.
App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2004, no pet.) (citing Cedar
Crest Funeral Home, Inc. v. Lashley, 889 S.W.2d 325, 330
(Tex. App.-Dallas 1993, no writ)). A plea to the jurisdiction
challenges the trial court's authority to decide the
merits of the case. Am. K-9 Detection Servs., LLC v.
Freeman, 556 S.W.3d 246, 267 (Tex. 2018). Because
subject-matter jurisdiction presents a question of law, we
review the trial court's ruling on a plea to the
jurisdiction de novo. Hearts Bluff Game Ranch, Inc. v.
State, 381 S.W.3d 468, 476 (Tex. 2012). In reviewing a
plea to the jurisdiction, we review the pleadings, factual
assertions, and any evidence relevant to the jurisdictional
issue. Klumb v. Houston Mun. Emps. Pension Sys., 458
S.W.3d 1, 8 (Tex. 2015). We accord the trial court's
decision no deference. J.M. Davidson, Inc. v.
Webster, 128 S.W.3d 223, 239 (Tex. 2003).
The trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction over the tax
Texas law, real property is subject to taxation. Tex. Const.
art. VIII, § 1(b); Tex. Tax Code §§
11.01(a)-(b), 21.01. An owner of real property is obligated
to pay ad valorem taxes levied on the property on the first
day of January of the tax year for which the tax is imposed
by a taxing authority. Tex. Tax Code § 32.07. A taxing
authority is defined as a county, city, or school district
that is authorized to impose ad valorem taxes on real
property. Id. § 21.01. The Texas Constitution
authorizes counties to levy property taxes and empowers the
legislature to enact laws for the assessment and collection
of property taxes by school districts. Tex. Const. art. 8,
§ 9; art. 7, § 3(e); Fisher v. Cty. of
Williamson, No. 03-05-00584- CV, 2006 WL 1649262, at *2
(Tex. App.-Austin June 15, 2006, no pet.). School districts
are also authorized to levy and collect property taxes. Tex.
Educ. Code § 11.152; Fort Worth Indep. Sch. Dist. v.
City of Fort Worth, 22 S.W.3d 831, 835 n.2 (Tex. 2000).
Finally, the Texas Constitution, the Tax Code, and the Local
Government Code allow cities to levy, assess, and collect
property taxes. Tex. Const. art. 8, § 9(a); art. 11,
§§ 4, 5; Tex. Tax Code § 302.001; Tex. Loc.
Gov't Code § 51.051; see Fisher, 2006 WL
1649262, at *2. Under Texas Tax Code section 33.41(a), a
taxing unit may initiate a legal proceeding in the county in
which the tax was imposed and sue to foreclose the lien
securing the payment of the tax, to enforce personal
liability for the tax delinquency, or both. Tex. Tax Code
taxing units are authorized to initiate legal proceedings to
collect taxes when an owner of real property fails to timely
remit payment for property taxes assessed. A district court
in Harris County is a court of competent jurisdiction to hear
cases involving delinquent taxes assessed on property located
within the county. See Willie v. Harris Cty., 499
S.W.3d 907, 909-10 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, pet.
denied) (explaining that the Harris County District Court had