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Supreme Court of Texas
September 10, 2018, Argued; October 12, 2018, Opinion Delivered
[*149] On Petition for Writ of Mandamus
The Texas Constitution requires that all property be taxed "in the county where [*150] situated".1 But for 46 years, Nueces County and San Patricio County have been locked in a Texas Death Match2 over their shoreline boundary on Corpus Christi Bay, and for the past 10 years both have taxed the same piers, docks, and other facilities affixed to the land—San Patricio County—but extending out into the water—Nueces County. Taxpayers have paid millions of dollars in taxes on the same [**4] property to each county. Barred by immunity from suing the counties, taxpayers' only remedy has been to file tax protest suits year after year against each county to preserve their right to a refund whenever it is determined which county lacked the authority to assess the taxes.
Not surprisingly, the Legislature and Governor have concluded that the taxpayers' plight is intolerable. After all, "for at least 125 years, we have assumed and sometimes held that ] double taxation is forbidden."3 Last year, the Legislature enacted, and the Governor signed into law, a statute authorizing property owners subject to the multiple taxation to petition this Court directly to determine which county is owed the taxes.4 In this proceeding under that statute, we hold that we have original jurisdiction and that taxes on relators' property are owed to San Patricio County.
Relators (collectively, "Oxy"5 ) own two massive commercial piers extending from the mainland of San Patricio County into the waters of Corpus Christi Bay that lie in Nueces County. Alpha Pier, some 1,100 feet long and 80 feet wide, extends into the Corpus Christi Channel of the Bay. It was [**5] constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers and operated by the United States Navy until 2010. Oxy acquired Alpha Pier and its docks in 2012. Beta Pier is approximately 500 feet long and extends into the La Quinta Channel of the Bay. At its end, a perpendicular walkway extends 550 feet in each direction. Oxy constructed Beta Pier around 1990 and continues to own and operate it. Both Piers, anchored by concrete piles deeply embedded in the floor of the Bay, are permanent, immovable structures. The Piers and the equipment on them are used to load crude oil and industrial chemicals onto large, international tankers. Aerial photographs of the Piers are included in the Appendix to this opinion.
[*151] San Patricio County and Nueces County have each assessed taxes on Oxy's Piers, and Oxy has paid taxes to both, though it has done so under protest in order to preserve its contention that it has been double-taxed and obtain a refund. In 2009, San Patricio County sued Nueces County in the district court in Refugio County to determine which of them has authority to tax property affixed to the land but extending out into the water.6 That suit remains pending. Oxy petitions this Court to resolve in this [**6] original proceeding the counties' dispute in their pending litigation. Oxy does not take sides in that dispute, urging only that it be freed from double taxation. Nueces County contends that the Court lacks jurisdiction over this proceeding.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
561 S.W.3d 146 *; 2018 Tex. LEXIS 1011 **; 62 Tex. Sup. J. 42; 2018 WL 4939073
IN RE OCCIDENTAL CHEMICAL CORPORATION, OXY INGLESIDE ENERGY CENTER, LLC, OXY INGLESIDE LPG TERMINAL LLC, AND OXY INGLESIDE OIL TERMINAL LLC, RELATORS
Subsequent History: Rehearing denied by In re Occidental Chem. Corp., 2018 Tex. LEXIS 1258 (Tex., Dec. 14, 2018)
Prior History: In re City of Corpus Christi, 2012 Tex. App. LEXIS 7317, 2012 WL 3755604 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi, Aug. 29, 2012)San Patricio County v. Nueces County, 214 S.W.3d 536, 2006 Tex. App. LEXIS 10534 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi, Dec. 7, 2006)
original jurisdiction, taxes, mandamus, district court, shoreline, special reason, authorizes, refund, cases, taxpayers, mandamus relief, facilities, argues, constructed, deadline, rights, docks, injunctive, protest, urgent necessity, retroactive, parties, courts, River, writ of mandamus, general public, franchise tax, quo warranto, impair, double taxation
Tax Law, State & Local Taxes, Administration & Procedure, Judicial Review, Governments, Local Governments, Boundaries, State & Territorial Governments, Legislatures, Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Jurisdiction, Claims By & Against, Remedies, Writs, Common Law Writs, Constitutional Law, The Judiciary, Jurisdiction, Jurisdictional Sources, Constitutional Sources, Common Law Writs, Mandamus, Injunctions, Real Property Law, Encumbrances, Adjoining Landowners, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, State Court Review, Congressional Duties & Powers, Bills of Attainder & Ex Post Facto Clause, Ex Post Facto Clause, Legislation, Effect & Operation, Retrospective Operation, Courts, Authority to Adjudicate, Operability, Enactment, Statutory Remedies & Rights, Water Rights, Common Law, Ownership & Transfer