Tax Foreclosure

Tax Foreclosure


Wallace Poole is the former lease operator of record for a saltwater disposal well within the boundaries of West Hardin County CISD (West Hardin). In November 2004, West Hardin secured a tax foreclosure judgment against Poole in district court for back taxes owed on the lease. In 2005, the Texas Railroad Commission brought an enforcement action against Poole, as the operator of record, to bring the well into compliance with Commission rules, ordering that Poole plug the well and pay an administrative penalty.

Poole neither paid his administrative penalty nor plugged the well, and the State ultimately entered the property to plug the well. The attorney general of Texas filed suit against Poole to recover the unpaid administrative penalty and $31,190.00 in state funds that had been expended to bring his wells into compliance with applicable rules and regulations. Poole then sued West Hardin seeking repayment of his losses stemming from his refusal to bring the well into compliance. West Hardin filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that Poole’s lawsuit, a takings claim, was a collateral attack on the previous judgment against him and that the court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over Poole’s claims. The district court granted West Hardin’s plea to the jurisdiction and dismissed all claims against the school district. On appeal to the Ninth Court of Appeals of Texas, a panel of judges issued an opinion affirming in part and reversing in part the lower court’s grant of West Hardin’s plea to the jurisdiction. Relying on collateral estoppel cases, the Court of Appeals held that the issue of collateral attack is not jurisdictional and remanded Poole’s takings claim to the trial court. On October 26, 2012, the Texas Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ problematic opinion and dismissed the suit for want of jurisdiction. The Court agreed that Poole's complaints about West Hardin’s conduct were not truly a takings claim because they were not about the loss of the property itself. West Hardin County Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Poole, No. 11-0362 (Texas Supreme Court). LAF’s Attorney: Don Cruse, Law Office of Don Cruse, Austin.