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HARRIS COUNTY APPRAISAL DISTRICT, Appellant v. IQ LIFE SCIENCES CORPORATION, Appellee
Appellee IQ Life Sciences Corporation filed a suit for judicial review against appellant, Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD), in district court after the Appraisal Review Board dismissed IQ Life Sciences's section 25.25(d) motion for correction of its property taxes and section 41.411 protest of its property taxes for tax years 2013 through 2015. See Tex. Tax Code Ann. §§ 25.25(d), 41.411. HCAD filed a plea to the jurisdiction arguing that the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction because IQ Life Sciences did not timely file either the motion for correction or protest. The trial court denied HCAD's plea. Because we conclude that the trial court does not have subject-matter jurisdiction over IQ Life Sciences's claims, we reverse the trial court's denial of HCAD's plea and dismiss IQ Life Sciences's claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.1
It is undisputed that IQ Life Sciences owned business personal property in Harris County on January 1 of each tax year at issue in this case, 2013, 2014, and 2015. It is also undisputed that IQ Life Sciences did not protest the appraised value of the business personal property for any of the tax years at issue prior to February 1 of each year after the tax year. According to IQ Life Sciences, it did not file protests because it did not receive notices of the appraised value from HCAD for the tax years at issue. IQ Life Sciences did, however, pay the exact amount shown on its property tax bills before the February 1 delinquency date for each tax year at issue. IQ Life Sciences paid the 2013 taxes on January 21, 2014, the 2014 taxes on January 28, 2015, and the 2015 taxes on December 31, 2015 and January 20, 2016.2 As demonstrated by its own records, IQ Life Sciences therefore had actual notice of the amount of business property taxes it owed for each tax year at issue in this appeal. Even though IQ Life Sciences had actual knowledge of those taxes, and paid the exact amount of taxes shown on its tax bill prior to the delinquency date during each year at issue in this appeal, it did not protest or otherwise complain about the appraisal or assessment of its property at the time of each payment.
IQ Life Sciences instead waited until August 11, 2017 to file a motion for correction asserting that the appraised value of its personal property for the years 2013, 2014, and 2015, exceeded by more than one-third the correct appraised value. See Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 25.25(d) (allowing motions for correction of value in limited circumstances). IQ Life Sciences also filed on that same day protests under section 41.411 asserting that HCAD had failed to send during 2013, 2014, and 2015, the notice of appraised value called for by section 25.19 of the Property Tax Code. See id. at §§ 25.19 (requiring chief appraiser to send notice of appraised value to property owners and specifying contents of the notice), 41.411(a) (“A property owner is entitled to protest before the appraisal review board the failure of the chief appraiser or the appraisal review board to provide or deliver any notice to which the property owner is entitled.”). The Harris County Appraisal Review Board (ARB) determined that it had no jurisdiction to grant any of the relief requested by IQ Life Sciences and it dismissed IQ Life Sciences's motion and protests.
IQ Life Sciences then filed suit asking the district court to order HCAD (1) to correct the 2013, 2014, and 2015 appraised values of its personal property pursuant to section 25.25(d) of the Property Tax Code and (2) to provide IQ Life Sciences with notices of appraisal for the tax years at issue and provide a hearing regarding IQ Life Sciences's protest of those appraised values. HCAD filed a plea to the jurisdiction arguing the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over IQ Life Sciences's suit because IQ Life Sciences did not timely exhaust its administrative remedies as required by the Property Tax Code. The trial court denied the plea.
HCAD filed a motion for reconsideration. In response, IQ Life Sciences argued that because it had timely paid all taxes for the tax years at issue, no taxes ever became delinquent. As a result of its timely payment, IQ Life Sciences asserted there was no deadline for it to file a lack-of-notice protest for those years. IQ Life Sciences argued in the alternative that section 41.44(c-3) of the Property Tax Code extended the deadline to file a lack-of-notice protest because it never received a tax bill from any taxing unit for any of the three years at issue. See Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 41.44(c-3) (providing for a hearing for a property owner who files a section 41.411 protest on or after the date the taxes on the property become delinquent but before the 125th day after the property owner “claims to have first received written notice of the taxes in question ․ solely on the issue of whether one or more taxing units timely delivered a tax bill”). The trial court denied HCAD's motion for reconsideration. HCAD then filed this interlocutory appeal. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 51.014(a)(8).
HCAD raises three issues on appeal, all challenging the trial court's denial of its plea to the jurisdiction. While we ultimately address the arguments raised in each of HCAD's issues, we approach them from the perspective of IQ Life Sciences two claims raised in its suit below.
I. Standard of review and applicable law
HCAD's issues all challenge whether the trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction to consider IQ Life Sciences's claims. The existence of subject-matter jurisdiction is a question of law that can be challenged by a plea to the jurisdiction. Klumb v. Houston Mun. Emps. Pension Sys., 458 S.W.3d 1, 8 (Tex. 2015); Tex. Dep't of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 226 (Tex. 2004). We review a trial court's ruling on a plea de novo. See Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 226, 228; Woodway Drive LLC v. Harris Cty. Appraisal Dist., 311 S.W.3d 649, 651 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2010, no pet.).
When, as here, a plea to the jurisdiction challenges the existence of jurisdictional facts, we consider relevant evidence submitted by the parties when necessary to resolve the jurisdictional issues. See Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 227. The movant, in this case HCAD, must meet the summary-judgment standard of proof by conclusively demonstrating that the trial court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. See id. at 227–28. We credit as true all evidence favoring the nonmovant and draw all reasonable inferences and resolve any doubts in the nonmovant's favor. Id. at 228. If the evidence creates a fact question regarding the jurisdictional issue, then the trial court may not grant the plea, and the fact issue will be resolved at trial by the factfinder. Id. at 227–28. If relevant evidence is undisputed or fails to raise a fact question on the jurisdictional issue, then the trial court rules on the plea as a matter of law. Id. at 228.
This appeal presents questions of statutory construction, which we also review de novo. Texas Dep't of Transp. v. Needham, 82 S.W.3d 314, 318 (Tex. 2002). When construing statutes, our primary objective is to give effect to the legislature's intent. Willacy Cty. Appraisal Dist. v. Sebastian Cotton & Grain, Ltd., 555 S.W.3d 29, 38 (Tex. 2018). We rely on the plain meaning of the text as expressing legislative intent unless a different meaning is supplied by legislative definition or is apparent from the context, or the plain meaning leads to absurd results. Id. We presume that the legislature intended the entire statute to be effective. Vitol, Inc. v. Harris Cty. Appraisal Dist., 529 S.W.3d 159, 171 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2017, no pet.). We also presume that the legislature chose a statute's language with care, intentionally including each word chosen, and omitting words purposefully. Id., at 168. Another fundamental principle of statutory construction is that when construing a statute, a reviewing court must consider the act as a whole and not just as single phrases, clauses, or sentences. Fredericksburg Care Co. v. Perez, 461 S.W.3d 513, 520 (Tex. 2015). We must give effect to each provision of a statute so that none is rendered meaningless or mere surplusage. TIC Energy & Chem., Inc. v. Martin, 498 S.W.3d 68, 74 (Tex. 2016). Therefore, when construing the provisions of the Property Tax Code at issue in this appeal, we must consider how each “provision fits within the narrow framework of the tax-appraisal protest scheme and within the broader scope of the Property Tax Code as a whole.” Willacy Cty. Appraisal Dist., 555 S.W.3d at 39.
The overall purpose of the Property Tax Code is to assure “the orderly collection of revenue so that the functions of government should not be dependent upon the outcome of a multitude of lawsuits,” while also ensuring that property owners have been given adequate time to file their protests. See Valero Transmission Co. v. Hays Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist., 704 S.W.2d 857, 859, n.1 (Tex. App.—Austin 1985, writ ref'd n.r.e.) (examining purpose behind newly enacted Property Tax Code); see also Willacy Cty. Appraisal Dist., 555 S.W.3d at 40 (citing Anderton v. Rockwall Cent. Appraisal Dist., 26 S.W.3d 539, 543 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2000, pet. denied)). To fulfill this purpose, the Property Tax Code provides detailed administrative procedures which are exclusive for anyone wanting to contest their property taxes. See Tex. Tax Code § 41.41 (providing right of protest by a property owner); Vitol, Inc., 529 S.W.3d at 166; Appraisal Review Bd. Of Harris Cty. Appraisal Dist. v. O'Connor & Assocs., 267 S.W.3d 413, 419 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, no pet.). The administrative-review process is intended to resolve most tax protests at the administrative level, relieving the burden on the court system in the process. Harris Cty. Appraisal Dist. v. ETC Mktg., 399 S.W.3d 364, 367 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2013, pet. denied). Therefore, property owners generally must exhaust their administrative remedies before they can seek judicial review. Vitol, Inc., 529 S.W.3d at 166. A property owner may file a petition for review in district court against the appraisal district to appeal an order by an appraisal review board determining an owner's protest. Tex. Tax Code Ann. §§ 42.01, 42.21; Eastland Cty. Appraisal Dist. v. Peninsula Pipelines (N. Tex.), LLC, 594 S.W.3d 383, 385 (Tex. App.—Eastland 2019, no pet.) (stating that “a district court has subject-matter jurisdiction over a property owner's timely filed petition for review from an ARB order.”); Munn v. Smith Cty. Appraisal Dist., 584 S.W.3d 501, 503 (Tex. App.—Tyler 2018, pet. denied) (“After an administrative hearing, dissatisfied taxpayers are authorized to appeal to the district court.”); United Airlines, Inc. v. Harris Cty. Appraisal Dist., 513 S.W.3d 185, 189 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, pet. denied) (stating that “invocation of the trial court's jurisdiction over an appeal is a subject covered by sections 42.01 and 42.21” of the Tax Code). As a result, “a taxpayer's failure to pursue an appraisal review board proceeding deprives the courts of jurisdiction to decide most matters relating to ad valorem taxes.” Cameron Appraisal Dist. v. Rourk, 194 S.W.3d 501, 502 (Tex. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted); see Gregg Cty. Appraisal Dist. v. Laidlaw Waste Sys., Inc., 907 S.W.2d 12, 16 (Tex. App.—Tyler 1995, writ denied) (stating that Property Tax Code “provisions creating rights and remedies are mandatory and exclusive and must be complied with in all respects”); cf. United Airlines, Inc., 513 S.W.3d at 188 (stating petition filed in compliance with sections 42.01 and 42.21 is “sufficient to vest the trial court with jurisdiction”).
The legislature has provided two direct avenues by which an appraisal roll may be substantively changed, chapter 41 of the Property Tax Code and section 25.25(d) of the Property Tax Code. Willacy Cty. Appraisal Dist., 555 S.W.3d at 40, n.5. Section 41.41 outlines eight actions that may be protested by a property owner to an appraisal review board, including “determination of the appraised value of the owner's property.” Id. § 41.41(a)(1). In addition, subsection (a)(9) authorizes a general protest of “any other action of the chief appraiser [or] appraisal district ․ that applies to and adversely affects the property owner.” Id. § 41.41(a)(9). “[T]o take advantage of this option, generally, a property owner must file a written notice of protest within thirty days after the owner receives a notice of the appraised value of the property.” Bauer-Pileco, Inc. v. Harris Cty. Appraisal Dist., 443 S.W.3d 304, 310 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2014, pet. denied); see Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 41.44(a). A property owner may, however, protest the failure of the chief appraiser to provide or deliver any notice to which the property owner is entitled. See id. at § 41.411. If the property owner establishes that the notice was not provided or delivered, the appraisal review board must determine the protest made by the property owner. Rio Valley, LLC v. City of El Paso, 441 S.W.3d 482, 488 (Tex. App.—El Paso 2014, no pet.) (citing Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 41.411(b)). The Property Tax Code also establishes the deadline by which a lack of notice protest must be filed. It provides that
a property owner who files a protest under Section 41.411 on or after the date the taxes on the property to which the notice applies become delinquent, but not later than the 125th day after the property owner, in the protest filed, claims to have first received written notice of the taxes in question, is entitled to a hearing solely on the issue of whether one or more taxing units timely delivered a tax bill. If at the hearing the appraisal review board determines that all of the taxing units failed to timely deliver a tax bill, the board shall determine the date on which at least one taxing unit first delivered written notice of the taxes in question, and for the purposes of this section the delinquency date is postponed to the 125th day after that date.
Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 41.44(c-3).
The second direct avenue is found in section 25.25(d) of the Property Tax Code. Section 25.25(d) allows property owners to file a motion “to correct an error that resulted in an incorrect appraised value for the owner's property.” Anderton, 26 S.W.3d at 542 (quoting Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 25.25(d)). For a property owner to be eligible for this correction, it must show that the error resulted in a valuation that exceeds the correct appraised value by more than one-third. Id. Section 25.25(d) extends the time to file a challenge to the appraised value until February 1 of the year following the tax year, the date the yearly property taxes become delinquent. Id. at 543. If the appraisal roll is changed under section 25.25(d), the property owner must pay each affected taxing unit a late-correction penalty. Id. at 542. As the Dallas Court of Appeals observed:
A property owner's ability to change approved tax appraisal rolls is clearly limited. The structure of the appraisal protest process restricts the scope of challenges available to property owners based on the time within which they file their protest. Taxpayers who file their protest soon after receiving their notice of appraised value have the widest latitude regarding what may be challenged. In contrast, taxpayers who file a protest long after the appraisal rolls have been approved have limited options with respect to what may be changed. This structure prevents disruption and uncertainty in the tax rolls by setting deadlines after which property valuations become fixed.
Id. at 542–43.
II. The trial court erred when it denied HCAD's plea to the jurisdiction on IQ Life Sciences's section 25.25(d) motion for correction.
IQ Life Sciences filed a motion for correction pursuant to section 25.25(d) on August 11, 2017. IQ Life Sciences filed the motion one-and-a-half years after the February 1, 2016 delinquency date for 2015 tax payments, and an even longer time period after the delinquency dates for the 2013 and 2014 tax payments. IQ Life Sciences argued in the trial court below, and again on appeal, that there was no deadline for it to file its section 25.25(d) motion for correction because it timely paid the taxes owed each year and therefore they never became delinquent.
The Dallas Court of Appeals has addressed a case with similar issues. Id. at 540–44. In Anderton, the landowner lost the agricultural exemption on two tracts of land. Id. at 541. The appraisal district notified the landowner that she owed an additional amount of taxes equal to the difference between the agricultural appraised value of the land and what the appraised value would have been without the agricultural exemption for the previous five years. Id. The appraised value did not change from what it had been determined to be during each of the relevant years, all that changed was the applicability of the agricultural exemption. Id. at 541–42. The appraisal district also notified the landowner of a delinquency date for the payment of those taxes. Id. Before that deadline, the landowner filed a section 25.25(d) motion to correct the appraised market values of the two tracts for each of the five years in dispute. Id. The appraisal review board rejected her motion, as did the trial court when the landowner filed suit. Id. On appeal, the landowner argued that because the motion for correction was filed before the delinquency date set by the appraisal review board, it was timely even though she sought to correct tax appraisals more than five years old. The Dallas Court of Appeals rejected the landowner's argument, holding that “any motion made pursuant to section 25.25(d) ․ must be filed before the date the yearly taxes on the subject land become delinquent.” Id. at 544. It reached this conclusion even though there were no delinquent taxes at the time the landowner filed its motion.
We conclude that construing section 25.25(d) so that it allows motions for substantive corrections to property taxes to be filed years, even decades, after the appraisal rolls have become fixed would lead to absurd results and is directly contrary to the legislature's intent regarding the scope of challenges available to property owners under the Property Tax Code. See Anderton, 26 S.W.3d at 543 (rejecting similar argument in appeal involving motion for correction of the market value appraisal of agricultural land more than five years after land was originally appraised). This is especially true here when the record establishes that IQ Life Sciences had actual notice of the amount of taxes owed in time to file a section 25.25(d) motion for correction before the February 1 delinquency date. See Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 31.02 (stating that “taxes are due on receipt of the tax bill and are delinquent if not paid before February 1 of the year following the year in which imposed”); see Willacy Cty. Appraisal Dist., 555 S.W.3d at 43–44 (stating that the “failure to send or receive the tax bill ․ does not affect the validity of the tax, penalty, or interest, the due date, the existence of a tax lien, or any procedure instituted to collect a tax” and that the “failure to receive notice of appraised value as required by the Property Tax Code does not affect the property owner's obligation to pay the tax based on that appraised value.”) (internal quotation marks omitted); City of El Paso v. Mountain Vista Builders, Inc., 557 S.W.3d 617, 622 (Tex. App.—El Paso 2017, no pet.) (stating that property owner alleging lack of notice must still follow available administrative remedies); Anderton, 26 S.W.3d at 543 (“In general, the extension under 25.25(d) ends on February 1 of the year following the tax year, the date the yearly property taxes become delinquent.”). We therefore reject IQ Life Sciences's argument and hold that because IQ Life Sciences's motion for correction was filed long after the February 1 delinquency date for each of the three tax years at issue, it was untimely. See Anderton, 26 S.W.3d at 543 (“We conclude such a construction would be contrary to the legislature's intent regarding the scope of challenge available under section 25.25(d).”).
Section 25.25(c) also supports this conclusion. See Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 25.25(c). In Anderton, the Dallas Court of Appeals concluded that section 25.25(c) illuminates the limited nature of the tax appraisal challenges authorized by section 25.25(d). Anderton, 26 S.W.3d at 543. It stated
In enacting section 25.25(c) of the tax code, the legislature specifically set forth the limited corrections that may be made to an appraisal roll five years after the date the property values were determined. These limited corrections include only objective and ministerial matters such as clerical errors. They do not include the substantive reevaluation of a property's market value. A claim under section 25.25(d) necessarily requires such a reevaluation. Anderton's construction of section 25.25(d) conflicts with the legislature's intent as evidenced in section 25.25(c) that challenges made long after the rolls have been approved be limited to corrections of only certain objective, factual matters.
Id. (Internal citations omitted). Like Anderton, IQ Life Sciences's construction of section 25.25(d) conflicts with the legislature's intent. As a result, we hold that the trial court did not have jurisdiction over IQ Life Sciences's claim and it erred when it denied HCAD's plea to the jurisdiction. O'Connor & Assocs., 267 S.W.3d at 419.
III. The trial court erred when it denied HCAD's plea to the jurisdiction on IQ Life Sciences's section 41.411 lack of notice protest.
IQ Life Sciences alleged in the trial court that it did not receive the notices of appraised value for its personal property for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 tax years. It asked the trial court to order HCAD to provide it with the respective notices of appraised value and to then hold a hearing on IQ Life Sciences's protest relating to those appraised values. HCAD responded with its plea to the jurisdiction arguing IQ Life Sciences's protest pursuant to section 41.411 was untimely. In response, IQ Life Sciences argued that there was no deadline to file its protest because it never received the appraisal notices. IQ Life Sciences then pointed out section 41.44(c-3), quoted above, and argued that the statutory provision supported its interpretation of the statute because the condition precedent to the creation of a deadline to protest, receipt of the appraisal notices, never occurred. The trial court apparently agreed with IQ Life Sciences's argument because it denied HCAD's plea.
On appeal, HCAD argues the trial court erred when it denied its plea on IQ Life Sciences's section 41.411 appraisal protest because IQ Life Sciences filed its protest long after any applicable statutory deadline. HCAD argues that pursuant to section 41.44(c), IQ Life Sciences was required to file its protest by February 1 of the year after each tax year at issue. See Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 41.44(c) (providing that property owner is entitled to a hearing and determination of appraisal protest if the property owner files the notice prior to the date the taxes on the property to which the notice applies become delinquent). HCAD also argues that IQ Life Sciences did not comply with the deadline found in section 41.44(c-3). This section extends the deadline to file a lack of notice protest to the 125th day after the property owner receives written notice of the taxes in question. See id. § 41.44(c-3).
IQ Life Sciences responds that the trial court did not err when it denied HCAD's plea because it timely filed its notice of protest under section 41.411. IQ Life Sciences argues that the notice of protest was timely under section 41.44(c) because (1) that section requires a property owner to file a protest “prior to the date the taxes on the property to which the notice applies become delinquent” and (2) it timely paid the taxes for each year at issue, therefore the taxes never became delinquent. See Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 41.44(c) Next, IQ Life Sciences asserts that the protest was timely under section 41.44(c-3) because it never received written notice of the taxes due therefore no deadline applied for it file a section 41.411 protest.
Because the evidence conclusively demonstrates that IQ Life Sciences had actual notice of the amount of taxes owed before the February 1 delinquency date for each tax year at issue here, it could not stand by and do nothing at that time, and then years later choose to file a protest of the appraised value of its taxable personal property. We therefore hold that IQ Life Sciences filed its section 41.411 protest too late, whether measured by section 41.44(c) or section 41.44(c-3). See City of El Paso, 557 S.W.3d at 619, 623 (holding that when property owner learned about taxes from property owner's bank, that knowledge triggered the 125-day deadline to file a lack of notice protest); ABT Galveston Ltd. P'ship v. Galveston Cent. Appraisal Dist., 137 S.W.3d 146, 154, 157–58 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, no pet.) (holding that when property owner had actual notice of taxes and paid them by delinquency date, alleged lack of notice did not excuse exhaustion of remedies).
To reach this conclusion we necessarily reject IQ Life Sciences's argument that there was no deadline for it to file its section 41.411 protest because it paid its taxes before they had “become delinquent.” Such a construction would defeat the overarching purpose of the Property Tax Code. See Valero Transmission Co., 704 S.W.2d at 859, n.1 (stating that purpose of the Property Tax Code is “the orderly collection of revenue so that the functions of government should not be dependent upon the outcome of a multitude of lawsuits,” while also ensuring that property owners have been given adequate time to file their protests). We instead conclude that the section 41.44(c) and section 41.44(c-3) language at issue here describes the general delinquency date as established in section 31.02. See Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 31.02 (stating that “taxes are due on receipt of the tax bill and are delinquent if not paid before February 1 of the year following the year in which imposed.”); Willacy Cty. Appraisal Dist., 555 S.W.3d at 44 (stating that the “failure to send or receive the tax bill ․ does not affect the validity of the tax, penalty, or interest, the due date, the existence of a tax lien, or any procedure instituted to collect a tax” and that the “failure to receive notice of appraised value as required by the Property Tax Code does not affect the property owner's obligation to pay the tax based on that appraised value.”) (internal quotation marks omitted); Harris Cty. Appraisal Dist. v. Dincans, 882 S.W.2d 75, 78 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 1994, writ denied) (“In view of the plethora of cases placing the burden on the property owner to pursue an administrative remedy in a timely manner, we cannot accept appellee's argument that would permit a property owner to do nothing when confronted with an obviously erroneous tax bill. To interpret sections 23.54 and 25.19 in such a manner would defeat the entire scheme the tax code sets out for protesting and appealing actions of the appraisal board.”). As a result, the ARB correctly dismissed IQ Life Sciences's protest and the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over IQ Life Sciences's lawsuit, and it should have granted HCAD's plea to the jurisdiction.
Further, this decision does not violate IQ Life Sciences's right to due process. In tax cases such as this, “due process is satisfied if the taxpayer is given an opportunity to be heard before an assessment board at some stage of the proceedings.” Vitol, Inc., 529 S.W.3d at 176, n.12; see City of Houston v. Parkinson, 419 S.W.2d 900, 904 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 1967, writ ref'd n.r.e.) (in a case involving assessments against property owners for the cost of street paving, the court stated that “due process is satisfied if the parties complaining had actual notice”). Here, IQ Life Sciences had actual notice of the taxes owed each year in time to file a protest. Therefore, it had the opportunity to be heard on the issue of its property taxes for that particular year.3 The fact it chose not to act upon that knowledge at the time does not mean that its due-process rights were violated.
Because we conclude that the trial court erred when it did not grant HCAD's plea to the jurisdiction on both IQ Life Sciences's section 25.25(d) motion for correction and section 41.411 protest, we sustain HCAD's issues, reverse the trial court's order denying HCAD's plea to the jurisdiction on those claims, and dismiss them for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
The plurality improperly (1) adjudicates a waived issue presented neither to the trial court nor on appeal, (2) applies principles of statutory construction to resolve an unambiguous statutory provision, (3) presumes the statutory scheme at issue creates an absurdity, (4) enlarges the plain language of a statute to reach a result contrary to the unambiguous plain language selected by the Legislature, (5) ignores the context of the purportedly ambiguous statutory language, and (6) assumes Appellee's actual notice of its taxes alleviates the government's responsibility to comport with statutory law. Therefore, I forcefully dissent.
I. Relevant Facts
The facts are uncontested that Appellee's relevant taxes never became delinquent because they were timely paid. As noted by the plurality, Appellee concurrently filed its original motion for correction with “protests under [Texas Tax Code] section 41.411 asserting that HCAD had failed to send during 2013, 2014, and 2015, the notice of appraised valued called for by section 25.19․” The Harris County Appraisal Review Board did not grant Appellee relief.
Appellee then sought judicial review. Specifically, Appellee sought orders compelling the Harris County Appraisal District to correct its rolls and provide notice of appraisal; both remedies are statutorily authorized. Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 25.25(d); compare id. § 25.19 (mandating notice) with id. § 41.411 (authorizing protest for failing to give notice). Appellant filed a plea to the jurisdiction and in response, Appellee filed an affidavit swearing it “did not receive Notices of Appraised Value” regarding its business personal property for 2013, 2014, and 2015. Neither party argued to the trial court that the phrase “become delinquent” as applied creates an absurdity; instead, this issue was raised for the first time on appeal.
The trial court denied Appellant's plea to the jurisdiction. Appellant sought reconsideration (but still did not argue ambiguity). In its response, Appellee argued its taxes never “bec[a]me delinquent” because it timely paid the taxes due. The trial court denied Appellant's request for relief and Appellant timely appealed. Neither party argued Texas Tax Code sections 41.41(c) or 22.25(d) are ambiguous either to the trial court or on appeal.
II. Relevant Statutory Language
The relevant statutory language provides:
[A] property owner who files notice of a protest ․ is entitled to a hearing and determination of the protest if the property owner files the notice prior to the date the taxes on the property to which the notice applies become delinquent.
Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 41.44(c) (emphasis added); see also id. § 25.25(d) (“At any time prior to the date the taxes become delinquent, a property owner or the chief appraiser may file a motion with the appraisal review board to change the appraisal roll to correct an error that resulted in an incorrect appraised value for the owner's property.”) (emphasis added); and id. § 41.411 (entitled “Protest of Failure to Give Notice”). Cf. Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 41.44(a) (requiring protest be filed not later than the thirtieth day “after the date that notice to the property owner was delivered to the property owner”) (emphasis added).
Importantly, neither party argues the phrase “become delinquent” is ambiguous on appeal and an examination of the record reveals no one argued it was ambiguous to the trial court.1 Therefore, the purported ambiguity of the word “become” was not briefed; this briefing failure provided Appellee with neither notice nor an opportunity to be heard concerning an unpresented question the plurality erroneously finds controlling. See generally Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(f) (“The brief must state concisely all issues or points presented for review.”). Therefore, arguments concerning the ambiguity of the phrase “become delinquent” have been waived and “may not” be considered. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Lenk, 361 S.W.3d 602, 604 (Tex. 2012) (“When a party fails to preserve error in the trial court or waives an argument on appeal, an appellate court may not consider the unpreserved or waived issue.”); see also In re D.Z., 583 S.W.3d 284, 291 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2019, no pet.). Fundamental tenets underlying our shared rule of law prohibit us from answering a controlling question of law that was not presented to the trial court. See Watts v. Oliver, 396 S.W.3d 124, 133 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2013, no pet.) (“A complaint that the trial court misapplied the law must be raised in the trial court.”). Similarly, no one argued to the trial court that a plain-language application of the phrase “become delinquent” constitutes an absurdity; this failure also constitutes waiver. See Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., 361 S.W.3d at 604; Watts, 396 S.W.3d at 133. The plurality has elected to refrain from addressing these waivers or explaining why we should analyze waived issues.
IV. Statutory Construction
The plurality finds that “This appeal presents questions of statutory construction.” I disagree, particularly because neither party argued the word “become” is ambiguous to the trial court or on appeal. The statutory phrase “become delinquent” is clear and unambiguous; “therefore, there is nothing to be construed.” Gen. Am. Indem. Co. v. Pepper, 161 Tex. 263, 339 S.W.2d 660, 661 (1960); see also Entergy Gulf States, Inc. v. Summers, 282 S.W.3d 433, 437 (Tex. 2009) (quoting In re Estate of Nash, 220 S.W.3d 914, 917 (Tex. 2007)); Fitzgerald v. Advanced Spine Fixation Sys., Inc., 996 S.W.2d 864, 865 (Tex. 1999) (“[I]t is cardinal law in Texas that a court construes a statute, ‘first, by looking to the plain and common meaning of the statute's words.’ If the meaning of the statutory language is unambiguous, we adopt, with few exceptions, the interpretation supported by the plain meaning of the provision's words and terms.”) (internal citations omitted); Geters v. Eagle Ins. Co., 834 S.W.2d 49, 50 (Tex. 1992) (per curiam) (courts must apply ordinary meanings); Hopkins v. Spring Indep. Sch. Dist., 736 S.W.2d 617, 619 (Tex. 1987) (same); and 82 C.J.S. Statutes § 365 (2020) (“The rules of statutory construction are used only when the intent of the statute is unclear or ambiguous. The rules of statutory construction generally are used only in case of doubt, meaning where the intent or meaning of the statute is unclear or ambiguous․ If the statute conveys a clear and definite meaning, a court must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of the legislature and has no occasion to resort to rules of statutory interpretation.”).
Ignoring waiver and applying the rules of statutory construction, the plurality's reliance thereon (as well as Appellant's insistence that we use them) is predicated upon an erroneous presumption that the trial court's ruling honoring the plain and ordinary meaning of the word “become” creates an unacceptable absurdity requiring judicial rectification. This results-oriented presumption that the Legislature chose the wrong word is impossible without an absurdity. See Entergy Gulf States, Inc., 282 S.W.3d at 437 (“This general rule [requiring discernment of legislative intent from the plain meaning of the words chosen] applies unless enforcing the plain language of the statute as written would produce absurd results.”) (citing Fleming Foods of Tex., Inc. v. Rylander, 6 S.W.3d 278, 284 (Tex. 1999)).2 Instead, it is the plurality's implicit conclusion (i.e., that honoring the Legislature's plain language renders an absurdity despite the absence of any relevant argument to the trial court) that is absurd.
Specifically, the plurality concludes the Legislature could not possibly have intended for us to interpret the word “become” according to its plain meaning because it permits an outcome that is contrary to the overall purpose of the statute, i.e., “that the appraisal rolls become fixed after property owners have been given adequate time to file their protests.” Willacy Cty. Appraisal Dist. v. Sebastian Cotton & Grain, Ltd., 555 S.W.3d 29, 40 (Tex. 2018) (quoting Anderton v. Rockwall Cent. Appraisal Dist., 26 S.W.3d 539, 543 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2000, pet. denied)). First, the plurality improperly presumes an adequate time has passed despite the plain language of the statute and the undisputed facts. Second, accepting the plurality's argument as a valid route to absurdity relies upon a heretofore non-existent and illogical rule of statutory construction, i.e., plain-language statutory provisions that create an exception to the overall purpose of a statute are void as a matter of law by nature of their exceptionalness. This anti-logic (which the plurality has elected to leave unaddressed) creates countless absurdities directly contrary to controlling law.3 The Legislature has every right to create any constitutionally-permissible exception it desires and the constitutionality of the exception at issue was not presented to the trial court or on appeal. Therefore, I thoroughly reject the plurality's contention that the application of the word “become” as written is absurd.
“The ‘bar for reworking the words our Legislature passed into law is high, and should be. The absurdity safety valve is reserved for truly exceptional cases, and mere oddity does not equal absurdity.’ ” Jaster v. Comet II Constr., Inc., 438 S.W.3d 556, 569 (Tex. 2014) (quoting Combs v. Health Care Servs. Corp., 401 S.W.3d 623, 630 (Tex. 2013)).4 A generally-accepted standard for absurdity is whether the application involves “patently nonsensical results”. See Tex. Workforce Comm'n v. Wichita Cty., 548 S.W.3d 489, 495 (Tex. 2018) (citing Combs, 401 S.W.3d at 630).5 I simply cannot conclude that allowing a party to seek judicial relief under these facts creates a patently nonsensical result, particularly given (1) the absence of any briefing to the trial court or on appeal concerning the legislative intent or history concerning the relevant statutory provisions, (2) an unambiguous statute, and (3) an uncontested sworn affidavit tending to evidence a violation of said statute.
VI. Common Usage
Even if I were to agree we should analyze a waived argument and apply the rules of statutory construction despite the absence of an absurdity, we are bound by the Texas Code Construction Act. There, the Legislature has required the judiciary to read words and phrases in context and to construe them according to the rules of grammar and common usage. See Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 311.011. Even if my understanding of common usage renders my definition of the word “become” unreasonable, I simply utilize a dictionary to determine its meaning. See Jaster, 438 S.W.3d at 563 (“The place to look for the ordinary meaning of words is ․ a dictionary.”) (quoting Epps v. Fowler, 351 S.W.3d 862, 873 (Tex. 2011) (Hecht, J., dissenting)). There, my common understanding of a commonly used term is confirmed. Become, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language 132 (Grammercy Books 1994) (“to come into being”). Therefore, the word “become” is unambiguous and we are obliged to apply it according to the plain language utilized by the Legislature. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 311.011; see also Fitzgerald, 996 S.W.2d at 865.
Even if I were to agree we should analyze a waived argument, apply the rules of statutory construction, and ignore both the absence of an absurdity and common usage, the plurality is still mistaken. “We determine legislative intent from the entire act and not just isolated portions.” 20801, Inc. v. Parker, 249 S.W.3d 392, 396 (Tex. 2008) (citing State ex rel. State Dep't of Highways & Pub. Transp. v. Gonzalez, 82 S.W.3d 322, 327 (Tex. 2002) (citing Jones v. Fowler, 969 S.W.2d 429, 432 (Tex. 1998) (per curiam))). Anyone who follows this instruction and examines the entire Tax Code will find the Legislature repeatedly uses the phrase “becomes delinquent”;6 changing this phrase to mean “would have become delinquent” would both create multiple intolerable absurdities and contribute to uncertainty in the law (neither of which is addressed by the plurality). These statutes reveal that the phrase “becomes delinquent” is well-known to the Legislature and that it is used as a well-established term of art.7 An examination of the Tax Code (as well as other statutes) also reveals the Legislature clearly knows the difference between the phrases “become delinquent” and “would have become delinquent”. Compare n.6, supra with Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 26.09(d) (“Except as provided by Subsection (d-1), the amount of back taxes due incurs interest calculated at the rate provided by Section 33.01(c) from the date the tax would have become delinquent had the tax been imposed in the proper tax year.”) (emphasis added); see also id. § 11.135(c) (“calculated from the dates on which the differences would have become due”) (emphasis added); id. § 11.181(e) (same); id. § 11.201(a) (same); id. § 11.185(e) (“computed from the dates on which the taxes would have become due”) (emphasis added); id. § 23.55(a) (“calculated from the dates on which the differences would have become due”) (emphasis added); id. § 23.76 (same); id. § 23.86(a) (same); id. § 23.96 (same); and id. §§ 23.9807(a)(2) and (b)(2) (same); Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. § 9.316(d),. (e)(1), (f)(1), (h)(2), and (i)(2); id. § 9.515(e); Tex. Ins. Code Ann. § 1105.007(1) (“premiums that would have become due on and after the policy anniversary”) (emphasis added); id. § 1105.012(c) (same); id. § 1105.053(f)(1)(A) (“on or after the date of the change on which a premium would have become due had the change not occurred”) (emphasis added); id. § 1105.007 (“correspond to premiums that would have become due on and after the policy anniversary”) (emphasis added); Tex. Nat. Res. Code Ann. § 183.002(f) (“calculated from the dates on which the differences would have become due”) (emphasis added); and Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 24.053(a) (“If a trustee disclaims an interest in property that otherwise would have become trust property”) (emphasis added).
Even when I examine the purported (but waived) ambiguity in context, I still have no cause to believe the Legislature meant anything other than what it said. See Fitzgerald, 996 S.W.2d at 866 (“[I]t is a fair assumption that the Legislature tries to say what it means, and therefore the words it chooses should be the surest guide to legislative intent.”); 82 C.J.S. Statutes § 365 (2020) (“Courts must presume that a legislature says in a statute what it means and means in a statute what it says there.”). I also have confidence that the Legislature (1) understands the nuances of the English language; (2) purposefully selected the word become because it meant “to come into being”; and (3) purposefully did not use the phrase would have become. See Jones v. Tex. Dep't of Family & Protective Servs., 400 S.W.3d 173, 179 (Tex. App.—Austin 2013, no pet.) (presuming the Legislature (1) “knows the difference” between void and voidable orders and (2) chooses its language with care).
The plurality acknowledges that, “We must give effect to each provision of a statute so that none is rendered meaningless or mere surplusage.” TIC Energy & Chem., Inc. v. Martin, 498 S.W.3d 68, 74 (Tex. 2016). The Legislature has clearly provided that “the chief appraiser shall deliver a clear and understandable written notice to the property owner of the appraised value of the property owner's property[.]” Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 25.19(a) (emphasis added). This notice must “separate real from personal property” and provide specific information. Id. § 25.19(b). Despite Appellee's sworn statement that it did not receive said notice, the plurality concludes judicial review is not warranted because Appellee received actual notice of the taxes it owed. The plurality fails, however, to consider the other statutorily mandated contents of the notice or discern whether Appellee was harmed by Appellant's failure to provide same. See id. Therefore, the plurality's analysis improperly relieves the government from providing statutorily-guaranteed notice by failing to give effect to the statutory schemes (1) mandating said provision and (2) authorizing protests based on government failures to provide notice.
Even if I were to ignore waiver, the lack of ambiguity, the dictionary definition of the term, the remainder of the Texas Tax Code, other Texas statutes that use the phrase “would have become”, and the negation of two separate statutory provisions, the plurality is still wrong. “When applying the ordinary meaning, courts ‘may not by implication enlarge the meaning of any word in the statute beyond its ordinary meaning, and implications from any statutory passage or word are forbidden when the legislative intent may be gathered from a reasonable interpretation of the statute as it is written.’ ” Monsanto Co. v. Cornerstones Mun. Util. Dist., 865 S.W.2d 937, 939 (Tex. 1993) (quoting Sexton v. Mount Olivet Cemetery Ass'n, 720 S.W.2d 129, 138 (Tex. App.—Austin 1986, writ ref'd n.r.e.)) (emphasis in original); see also Commonwealth of Mass. v. United N. & S. Dev. Co., 140 Tex. 417, 168 S.W.2d 226, 229 (1942) (adding provisos to a statute “would extend the statute by implication, and no language in the statute authorizes a resort to implication to arrive at some other intent”); Jaster, 438 S.W.3d at 562 (“We must enforce the statute ‘as written’ and ‘refrain from rewriting text that lawmakers chose.’ ”) (quoting Entergy Gulf States, Inc., 282 S.W.3d at 443); State v. Silver Chevrolet Pickup VIN 1GCEC14T7YE257128 Tag No. 3TMX16, 140 S.W.3d 691, 693 (Tex. 2004) (per curiam) (“We disagree and conclude that the court of appeals' rationale is flawed for two reasons. First, the court of appeals did not properly consider the most important rule of statutory construction — that the court must give effect to legislative intent ․ elevating instead the principle that forfeiture statutes are to be strictly construed. Nothing in the statutory language, though, indicates that the Legislature intended the result that the court of appeals reached.”) (citations omitted); and 67 Tex. Jur. 3d Statutes § 78 (2003) (“The court must construe a statute according to what it says, not according to what the court thinks that it should have said, even if the court thinks some other approach might accord with good policy.”). Despite this clearly established jurisprudence and the undisputed fact that Appellee's taxes never became delinquent, the plurality adds words to the statute and changes the meaning of the word “become” to mean “would have become”. “We cannot add words to a statute; that is solely the Legislature's prerogative.” Jasek v. Tex. Dep't of Family & Protective Servs., 348 S.W.3d 523, 535 (Tex. App.—Austin 2011, no pet.) (“A court may not judicially amend a statute and add words that are not implicitly contained in the language of the statute.”) (citing Lee v. City of Houston, 807 S.W.2d 290, 295 (Tex. 1991)).8
Additionally, the plurality's extension of the statute is prohibited because the statute (as applied) deprives Appellee of the common law and constitutional rights to notice and an opportunity to be heard.9 Although the plurality concludes the plain-language application of the word “become” tends to thwart the overall purpose of the statute, “there are legitimate reasons why the Legislature may have chosen this approach.” See Jaster, 438 S.W.3d at 569. We have been presented with neither reason nor argument why the Legislature could not, would not, or did not either (1) incentivize people to pay their taxes on time or (2) limit the remedies available to those who do not pay their taxes on time. Nothing about either one of these outcomes violates our obligation to presume “the Legislature intended a just and reasonable result by enacting the statute.” See City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 626 (Tex. 2008) (citing Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 311.021(3)). Therefore, we are not permitted to enlarge the meaning of the word “become” to satisfy our legislative leanings. See Jaster, 438 S.W.3d at 570 (“[W]e read unambiguous statutes as they are written, not as they make the most policy sense.”) (quoting Combs, 401 S.W.3d at 629); City of San Antonio v. Hartman, 201 S.W.3d 667, 673 (Tex. 2006) (“We must construe this statute according to what it says, not according to what we think it should have said.”).
The plurality (1) acknowledges that the Tax Code's administrative procedures are the “exclusive” remedy “for anyone wanting to contest their property taxes”, (2) disregards Appellee's sworn statement that it did not receive notice, and (3) concludes Appellee is not entitled to judicial review based on (a) waived arguments, (b) non-absurdities that were not briefed, (c) Appellee's receipt of actual notice (which somehow alleviates Appellant's responsibility to comport with statutory law), and (d) unambiguous and commonly used words that are impermissibly enlarged and taken out of context. Characterizing an unambiguous word as ambiguous to justify applying rules of statutory construction (particularly in the absence of any relevant argument or briefing to the trial court or on appeal) is an unmistakably activist and dangerous attempt to supplant the will of the Legislature with the will of the judiciary. Presuming the Legislature clumsily chose its words simply because we find the result of unambiguous plain language to be unwise is an unmistakable assault on the rule of law and our tripartite system of governance. As a result, I dissent.
1. Justice Spain concurs in the judgment only.
2. Each year IQ Life Sciences made two separate tax payments, one to Harris County and the second to Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District. The 2015 payments were made on two different dates.
3. To the extent IQ Life Sciences argues HCAD waived its challenge to the trial court's subject-matter jurisdiction over this lawsuit by including a request for disclosure in its original answer, we disagree. (BR24) See Dubai Petroleum Co. v. Kazi, 12 S.W.3d 71, 76 (Tex. 2000) (stating that a court's subject-matter jurisdiction “cannot be conferred upon any court by consent or waiver”).
1. Instead, Appellant's counsel specifically told the trial court at the hearing on the plea to the jurisdiction that “The inquiry is: What is the delinquency date?”. Unlike the plurality, I conclude Appellant should be estopped from reframing this material and strategic representation of the controlling issue to include a mutually exclusive argument that was never made; in other words, the controlling inquiry cannot be both “what is the delinquency date” and either (1) “was Appellee's timely payment delinquent within the meaning of the Texas Tax Code?” or (2) “is the phrase ‘become delinquent’ ambiguous?”
2. See also HDSA Westfield Lake, LLC v. Harris Cty. Appraisal Dist., 490 S.W.3d 558, 561 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, no pet.) (“The main rule in construing a statute is to give rational and practical effect to the intention of the lawmaking power. All other rules fall within this fixed principle of jurisprudence. A clause in the statute which is repugnant to the general act, and cannot be construed in harmony with it, must be held inoperative. So, in construing a statute, all effects which are unnatural, absurd, or unjust must be held as implied exceptions, the same as if they had been expressed in words.”) (citing Entergy Gulf States, Inc., 282 S.W.3d at 437); Atkinson v. State, 46 Tex.Crim. 229, 79 S.W. 31, 32 (1904) (quoting Ball v. State, 50 Ind. 595 (Ind. 1875)); and 82 C.J.S. Statutes § 365 (2020) (“Courts must presume that a legislature says in a statute what it means and means in a statute what it says there․ [I]t is ultimately the provisions of laws, rather than the principal concerns of legislators, that govern.”).
3. See, e.g., Paxton v. City of Dallas, 509 S.W.3d 247, 251 (Tex. 2017) (addressing statutory exceptions to the Public Information Act's embodiment of Texas policy to access “complete information about the affairs of government”) (quoting Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 552.001(a)); City of Austin v. Whittington, 384 S.W.3d 766, 799 (Tex. 2012) (addressing statutory exceptions to prohibitions on takings for economic development); and Fresh Coat, Inc. v. K-2, Inc., 318 S.W.3d 893, 899-901 (Tex. 2010) (addressing statutory exceptions to indemnity).
4. See also id. at 570 (“[R]easonableness is not the standard for eschewing plain statutory language.”) (quoting In re Blair, 408 S.W.3d 843, 859 (Tex. 2013) (orig. proceeding) (Boyd, J., concurring)); Combs, 401 S.W.3d at 630 (“A sales-tax exemption for tie pins, even if unintended, even if improvident, even if inequitable, falls short of being unthinkable or unfathomable. The absurdity backstop requires more than a curious loophole.”).
5. See also City of Fort Worth v. Rylie, 602 S.W.3d 459, 467-68 (Tex. 2020) (citing Combs, 401 S.W.3d at 630); Jaster, 438 S.W.3d at 562 (citing Molinet v. Kimbrell, 356 S.W.3d 407, 411 (Tex. 2011)); and In re Transcon. Gas Pipeline Co., LLC, 542 S.W.3d 703, 712 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2017, orig. proceeding) (citing Harris Cty. Appraisal Dist. v. Tex. Workforce Comm'n, 519 S.W.3d 113, 128 (Tex. 2017)).
6. See, e.g., Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 33.41 (providing that a taxing unit may file suit in a court of competent jurisdiction to foreclose the lien securing payment or to enforce personal liability “at any time after its tax on property becomes delinquent”); id. § 111.017(a) (“Before the expiration of three years after a person becomes delinquent in the payment of any amount under this title, the comptroller may seize and sell at public auction real and personal property of the person.”); id. § 33.01(a) (“A delinquent tax incurs a penalty of six percent of the amount of the tax for the first calendar month it is delinquent plus one percent for each additional month or portion of a month the tax remains unpaid prior to July 1 of the year in which it becomes delinquent.”); id. § 11.201(d) (“The taxes and interest are due and become delinquent and incur penalties and interest as provided by law.”); id. § 33.42(b) (“If a taxing unit's tax on real property becomes delinquent after the unit files suit to foreclose a tax lien on the property but before entry of judgment, the court shall include the amount of the tax and any penalty and interest in its judgment.”); id. § 33.22(a) (“At any time after a tax becomes delinquent, a collector may apply for a tax warrant to any court in any county in which the person liable for the tax has personal property.”); id. § 33.08(b), (c); id. § 33.11(a), (b); id. § 23.96(c); and id. § 42.42(b), (c).
7. Cf. Am. Sur. Co. of N.Y. v. Bd. of Trs. of Indep. Sch. Dist. of Ft. Worth, 224 S.W. 292, 293 (Tex. Civ. App.—Fort Worth 1919, no writ) (“The court finds that section 16 of chapter 8 of the present charter of Ft. Worth contains the following provision: ‘Should any taxpayer suffer his taxes to become delinquent, that is to say, shall fail or refuse to pay same before February 1st of each year, then a penalty shall attach to the payment of same․’ ”).
8. See also City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 631 (Tex. 2008) (“If the Legislature desires to amend the statute to add words so that the statute will then say what is contended for by the Estate, we are confident it will do so. However, changing the meaning of the statute by adding words to it, we believe, is a legislative function, not a judicial function.”) (citing 67 Tex. Jur. 3d Statutes § 85 (2003) (noting that it is for the Legislature, not the courts, to remedy deficiencies, if any, in laws)); Fitzgerald, 996 S.W.2d at 867 (“We may add words into a statutory provision only when necessary to give effect to clear legislative intent. Only truly extraordinary circumstances showing unmistakable legislative intent should divert us from enforcing the statute as written. No such extraordinary circumstances are present in this case, as the rest of this opinion discusses.”); and RepublicBank Dallas, N.A. v. Interkal, Inc., 691 S.W.2d 605, 607 (Tex. 1985) (“Courts must take statutes as they find them. More than that, they should be willing to take them as they find them․ They are not responsible for omissions in legislation. They are responsible for a true and fair interpretation of the written law. It must be an interpretation which expresses only the will of the makers of the law, not forced nor strained, but simply such as the words of the law in their plain sense fairly sanction and will clearly sustain.”) (quoting Simmons v. Arnim, 110 Tex. 309, 220 S.W. 66 (1920)). Cf. R.R. Comm'n of Tex. v. Miller, 434 S.W.2d 670, 672 (Tex. 1968) (“This brings to mind the maxim that ‘If Parliament does not mean what it says, it must say so.’ ․ We may not invade the legislative field. There is nothing ambiguous or uncertain about the literal meaning of the Act.”) (quoting Brazos River Auth. v. City of Graham, 163 Tex. 167, 354 S.W.2d 99 (1961)); and In re Blair, 408 S.W.3d 843, 848 n.25 (Tex. 2013) (“A provision may be either disregarded or judicially corrected as an error (when the correction is textually simple) if failing to do so would result in a disposition that no reasonable person could approve.”) (quoting A. Scalia & B. Garner, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts 234 (2012)).
9. See generally U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1 and Tex. Const. art. I, § 19. Compare Satterfield v. Satterfield, 448 S.W.2d 456, 459 (Tex. 1969) (“While Texas follows the rule that statutes in derogation of the common law are not to be strictly construed, it is recognized that if a statute creates a liability unknown to the common law, or deprives a person of a common law right, the statute will be strictly construed in the sense that it will not be extended beyond its plain meaning or applied to cases not clearly within its purview.”) (quoting Hickman v. Finlay, 392 S.W.2d 147 (Tex. Civ. App.—Austin 1965, writ ref'd)) with Holbein v. De La Garza, 59 Tex.Civ.App. 125, 126 S.W. 42, 46 (1910) (“ ‘Audi alteram partem’ is one of the maxims of the old civil law, and the doctrine that a man should not be condemned without a hearing is not only the instinct of justice, but this spirit breathes through the whole system of common law and especially through our system of equity, as distinguished from law, which seeks to temper the harshness of the common law and bring it more in harmony with the principles of abstract justice.”); Int'l Shoe Co. v. State of Wash., Office of Unemployment Comp. & Placement, 326 U.S. 310, 324, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945) (“It is true that this Court did use the terms ‘fair play’ and ‘substantial justice’ in explaining the philosophy underlying the holding that it could not be ‘due process of law’ to render a personal judgment against a defendant without notice to and an opportunity to be heard by him. Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 61 S.Ct. 339, 85 L.Ed. 278 (1940) In McDonald v. Mabee, 243 U.S. 90, 91, 37 S.Ct. 343, 61 L.Ed. 608 (1917) cited in the Milliken case, Mr. Justice Holmes speaking for the Court warned against judicial curtailment of this opportunity to be heard and referred to such a curtailment as a denial of ‘fair play’, which even the common law would have deemed ‘contrary to natural justice.’ ”); and Hovey v. Elliott, 167 U.S. 409, 415, 17 S.Ct. 841, 42 L.Ed. 215 (1897) (“At common law no man was condemned without being afforded opportunity to be heard.”).
Jerry Zimmerer, Justice
(Hassan, J. dissenting, Spain, J. concurring in judgment only without opinion).
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Docket No: NO. 14-18-00894-CV
Decided: October 13, 2020
Court: Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston (14th Dist.).
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