Court affirms dismissal of Air Force major's property tax claim

By Charmaine Little | May 13, 2018

NEW ORLEANS – An active-duty Air Force major was denied a retrial in a property tax case, according to a May 9 opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The appeals court sided with the lower district court in Jose D. Iraheta’s appeal of a decision to dismiss his lawsuit. Iraheta filed the complaint and said Harris County, as well as a tax-collection agency it works with acted unlawfully when it tried to collect his unpaid property taxes. The appeals court confirmed the district court’s ruling after it stated it found the lower court did not err in its decision and that there was no abuse of discretion.

Linebarger Goggal Blair & Sampson LLP and Harris County filed a lawsuit against Iraheta  in an attempt to collect on the unpaid taxes. Iraheta then responded with a counterclaim and cross-claim that resulted in an ongoing legal battle between the two parties.

The appeals court outlined a number of reasons for agreeing with the lower court .

It disagreed the defendants were not allowed to receive sovereign immunity when it came to the state claims. Iraheta said Texas law states a person is allowed to sue for taxes that were collected illegally. The appeals court challenged Iraheta’s claim and pointed out he is not seeking to recover taxes that were collected illegally. Instead, he is “raising state-law tort claims against their defendants” for their attempt to legally collect the taxes.

The appeals court also disagreed with Iraheta’s claims that the SCRA does not oblige him to reside in the property in question. Still, Iraheta pointed out he did occupy the properties listed in the lawsuit. The appeals court stated that Iraheta did not provide evidence that he occupied the property when the taxes were not paid.

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