Ninth Court once again reinstates property suit against Jefferson County

By David Yates | Sep 28, 2017

BEAUMONT – Last year, the Ninth Court of Appeals reinstated a civil case against Jefferson County alleging wrongful foreclosure of a tax sale.

In June, justices heard oral arguments in the case once again after a district judge granted the county summary judgment.

On Sept. 28, the Ninth Court reinstated the case for a second time, court records show.

Charles Kirkwood filed suit against W. Properties LLC and Jefferson County in Jefferson County District Court on Nov. 12, 2013.

Kirkwood, the owner of a property located at 2356 Briarcliff Drive in Beaumont, filed a writ of review after his property was allegedly sold at a sheriff’s sale without adequate notice.

Court records show that after Kirkwood’s motion for a new trial was granted in 2015, the county filed motions to dismiss for lack of standing and for lack of jurisdiction, which were both granted.

On July 29, 2015, Kirkwood filed an appeal with the Ninth Court, seeking injunctive relief to prevent the county from denying him possession of his real property.

Seven months later, justices reversed the trial court and remanded the case for further proceedings, finding that while Kirkwood may not be able to maintain a suit for damages against the county, he can maintain a suit for equitable relief based on an alleged deprivation of his property without due process.

In August of 2016, the trial court granted Jefferson County’s motion for reconsideration of its motion for summary judgment without a hearing.

Kirkwood appealed the decision in February, asserting that he has put his entire life savings into a property that was abruptly taken from him without due process or just compensation.

In their opinion, justices disagreed with the county’s argument that the trial court’s order must be upheld on the ground that Kirkwood failed to show that the trial court abused its discretion because “there is at least some evidence” to support the trial court’s order.

“This argument wholly ignores that, as the moving party, the County bore the burden of presenting not ‘some evidence,’ but evidence sufficient to negate the existence of any genuine issue of material fact,” the opinion states.

“We therefore overrule the County’s issue and, having sustained Kirkwood’s issue, reverse the trial court’s order granting the County’s motion for summary judgment, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

Case background

In January 2012, the county filed suit to collect overdue property taxes but named Sara Gleason, the previous owner, as the defendant.

Kirkwood acknowledges that his property taxes were in arrears but says he was never notified that the house would be put up for sale, since Sara Gleason was the named defendant in the lawsuit.

Kirkwood claims that in August 2010 the property was sold without his knowledge to W. Properties LLC.

Kirkwood says Jefferson County should have known he was the owner of the property because it was titled in his name, and they should have notified him about the lawsuit and the sale. Instead, Kirkwood claims he found out about the sale when W. Properties LLC asked him to vacate.

Kirkwood wanted to void the sale and get his property back.

He originally asked the court to vacate the judgment, void the Writ of Execution and grant an injunction to stop W. Properties from taking any more steps to remove Kirkwood from the property.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, is presiding over the case in the trial court.

Trial case No. E194-967

Appeals case No. 09-16-00337-CV

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