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Mount Vernon United Methodist Church v. Harris County

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

December 17, 2019

MOUNT VERNON UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, Appellant
v.
HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS, CITY OF HOUSTON, HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, AND HOUSTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM, Appellees

          On Appeal from the 152nd District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2014-29708

          Panel consists of Justices Lloyd, Goodman, and Landau.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Russell Lloyd Justice

         Appellant Mount Vernon United Methodist Church is attempting to appeal from an order denying its petition to withdraw the excess proceeds from a property tax foreclosure sale. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         On April 4, 2016, the trial court signed a final judgment awarding appellees Harris County, Texas, City of Houston, Houston Independent School District, and Houston Community College System delinquent taxes and costs concerning real property belonging to the Peace Community Development Corporation. The real property was subsequently sold at a tax sale and the excess proceeds from the tax sale were placed in the trial court's registry on September 27, 2016. On May 11, 2018, appellant received an assignment of the excess proceeds from the Peace Community Development Corporation by and through its Executive Director, Mildred Bright, who was a named party in the delinquent tax litigation.

         On September 4, 2018, appellant filed a post-judgment petition to withdraw excess funds. A copy of the assignment is attached to the petition. See Tex. Tax Code § 34.04(a). Appellees did not file a response. On September 17, 2018, appellant set the petition for submission without an oral hearing. On October 11, 2018, the tax master issued a report recommending that appellant's motion to withdraw be denied "on the basis of the record." The trial court denied the petition on October 13, 2018.

         Appellant filed a request for findings of fact and conclusions of law and a notice of past due findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial court denied appellant's request on December 10, 2018, and appellant filed its notice of appeal on December 13, 2018.

         Excess Proceeds from Tax Foreclosure Sales

         The proceeds from tax foreclosure sales are governed by sections 34.03 and 34.04 of the Tax Code. Section 34.04(a) allows any person to file a "petition in the court that ordered the seizure or sale setting forth a claim to the excess proceeds" within two years after the property was sold. Tex. Tax Code § 34.04(a). The court shall order the proceeds to be paid to each party that establishes its claim to the proceeds. See id. § 34.04(c). If no claimant establishes entitlement to the proceeds within this period, the "clerk shall distribute the excess proceeds to each taxing unit participating in the sale in an amount equal to the proportion its taxes, penalties, and interests bear to the total amount of taxes, penalties, and interest due all participants in the sale." Id. § 34.03(b).

         Jurisdiction

         Appellees argue that the court does not have jurisdiction over this appeal because the order is interlocutory and Tax Code section 34.04 does not allow appeals from an order denying a petition for excess proceeds. Appellant argues that the order is final and appealable and that depriving appellant of an appeal in this case violates its Equal Protection and Due Process rights guaranteed by the United States and Texas Constitutions.

         Unless specifically authorized by statute, Texas appellate courts have jurisdiction only to review final judgments. McFadin v. Broadway Coffeehouse, LLC, 539 S.W.3d 278, 283 (Tex. 2018). A judgment is final for purposes of appeal if it disposes of all pending parties and claims. Id. (citing Lehmann v. Har-Con Corp., 39 S.W.3d 191, 195 (Tex. 2001)).

         In a delinquent property tax proceeding, the final judgment is the order granting judgment to the taxing units for the unpaid taxes. See Royal Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Ragsdale, 273 S.W.3d 759, 763-64 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, no pet.). An order on a petition for distribution of excess proceeds from a tax foreclosure sale ...


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