Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, L.L.P. violate military personnel’s rights
Posted by irahetaj on May 25,
A class-action lawsuit has been been filed in the Shelby County Chancery Court, Memphis, Tennessee “alleging that fees, penalties and other charges for delinquent tax collection “unjustly enriched” [Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Simpson] the city’s collection agent and violated state law.”
It’s been nearly three years since my legal fight with Linebarger started. So, here we are, three years later, hundreds of hours spent on legal research, pleadings, and motions. Thousands of dollars spent on travel, court costs, printing, etc. Why may you ask? Well, someone has to stand up to Linebarger. A quick Google search of “Linbarger” combined with “fraud” and/or “abuse” yields nearly 1500 hits. So, am I just the only one wronged by Linebarger’s actions? I certainly believe that is not the case. It will be interesting to see how this “one man” fight unfolds against Linebarger’s army of lawyers, millions of dollars at their disposal, and countless of politicians on their side as a result of the millions of dollars in campaign contributions.
When a governmental entity is allowed to “become a lawbreaker, it [will] breed contempt for law, it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”, Olmstad v. United States, (1928) 277 U.S. 438.
It’s interesting to see how in most of the lawsuits in which Linebarger and Harris County have been involved, there’s a “boiler-plate” filing that is pretty common… Special Exceptions and Plea to the Jurisdiction claiming governmental immunity, or derived immunity in the case of Linebarger.
As you can see in the Court documents, under the hyperlink on the left side, Harris County and Linebarger, are once again claiming that they are immune. I have filed my answers to Linebarger and Harris County’s Special Exceptions and Plea to the Jurisdiction. We’ll have to wait and see how will the court rule… will it allow Linebarger and Harris County to act with impunity or will it give me the opportunity to hold them accountable.
One of Lincoln’s famous quotes “government of the people, by the people, for the people…” seems to lose ground as government entities and taxing authorities tailor laws and/or ordinances to accomodate Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson. An example of Linebarger’s influence in politics and local government is a city ordinance adopted by the city of New Orleans, which by the way was ruled unconstitutional by the Louisiana Supreme Court, that was “tailored to accommodate the 30 percent penalty structure of the Linebarger Firm, a Texas entity…”
Did your county/local government entity increase the penalty rate or passed a law/ordinance that was “tailored to accomodate [the] penalty structure” of Linebarger when it contracted its services? It will be interesting to see how many other local laws/ordinances have been “adopted” to “accomodate….Linebarger”. I would not be surprised if Harris County also accomodated Linebarger’s “penalty structure”.
Your thoughts? Send me a message if you are aware of similar “penalty” increases when your local governments hired Linebarger.
Thank you all who have sent me feedback and identified links that are broken and do not display the intended information. I have updated all the links and the intended information should be visible. Please feel free to continue to provide feedback whenever a link does not work properly.
To clarify for all of you that have sent me a message asking about the class action lawsuits listed under “Linebarger in the News and in the Courts”. I did not initiate any of those lawsuits, nor have I joined the current class action lawsuit in Harris County. Some of you have indicated the interest in exploring a class action lawsuit in the federal court or the state court. As I mentioned previously, I am currently deployed to the Middle East and do not have easy access to some of the documents being requested to be consolidated in exploring the class action options.
Once I return to the U.S., towards the end of summer, I’ll be able to search my documents and see what I can provide.
I’ve been receiving a lot messages/emails asking about the outcome of the ongoing case involving Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson. Here’s a quick update.
My case is still pending… due to my current deployment the Court stayed the judicial proceedings until the completion of my deployment.
On a note of interest, a class action lawsuit has been filed in Harris County by Houston’s lawfirm Johnson, Spalding, Doyle, West & Trent, L.L.P., against Linebarger alleging fraudulent actions related to their tax collection practices and the wrongful demand for “abstract or title search fees”.
Ronald Simon vs. Linebarger, Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, et al
Cause No. 2008-48628, In the District Court of Harris County, 127th Judicial District
|Civil Court Docket Inquiry|
Thank you to all of you who have sent me written comments, as requested I have only posted those comments that individuals have asked they be published.
One common theme you can see in the various incidents with Linebarger is that Linebarger has pretty much been able to act with impunity. It is evident that the millions of dollars Linebarger has contributed to various elected officials’ campaigns, and/or their PACs, give Linebarger the insulation from scrunity most collection agencies would have faced when their collection actions violate state and federal laws.
Perhaps a couple of other class action lawsuits filed against Linebarger will be the catalyst to cause a change in culture at Linebarger and also an embarrassment for those elected officials who continually shield Linebarger’s wrongful and illegal collection actions.
According to the TEXAS DISCIPLINARY RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT, “A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others”. Should you be subject to Linebarger’s abusive, harassing, wrongful, and illegal collection actions and practices, I ask that you share your story by sending it to me via the “Leave a comment” and suggest you also do the following:
1. File a complaint against Linebarger with the State Bar of Texas at:
2. Write the State Attorney General, for your particular state - ask that they look into Linebarger’s, or the government entity that contracted Linebarger, actions. You can find the name and address of each State Attorney General at the following website:
3. File a Rip Off Report at :
4. Contact your State/US Congress Representative and ask for his/her assistance/inquiry.
5. Contact your taxing authority(ies) – ask them for information on when Linebarger’s current contract will expire. Get citizens involved and voice your opposition to renewing any Linebarger contract if safeguards are not implemented to prevent abuses, impropriety, and wrongful collection practices by Linebarger.
June 8, 2008
This is the letter that I presented in person to the Harris County Commissioners Court, on Tuesday morning, June 3, 2008, regarding Linebarger’s violations of military personnel’s rights and making suggestions on how to fix the problems. Unfortuntely, as was to be expected given Linebarger’s numerous campaing donations to various Harris County elected officials’ campaigns, Harris County’s Judge Emmett decided that issues affecting Harris County’s military population were not important enough and cut my presentation at the three minute mark, while it provided nearly 40 minutes of microphone time, regarding another topic, to an individual with whom he has previously worked.
June 3, 2008
Harris County Commissioners Court
1001 Preston, Suite 938
Houston, Texas 77002
Re: Harris County’s Contract with Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, L.L.P. and Linebarger’s Collection Practices Violate the Rights of Military Personnel
Honorable Members of the Commissioners Court:
More than 120 years ago, one of our nation’s tenets was articulated by the United States Supreme Court when it stated in 1882 that “…No man in this country is so high he is above the law.” That tenet would also include that no government entity, or government contractor, “is above the law”.
Our men and women in uniform fight to guard our country and our way of life. In doing so, they, and their families, are called upon to make endless sacrifices. To ease the burden and stress of military service, military personnel are afforded various rights, entitlements and protections under federal and state laws, particularly the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the Texas Property Tax Code.
In January 2004, Harris County contracted the law firm of Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, L.L.P. (“Linebarger”) to “provide tax collection and enforcement services” and, per Section 1.8, the contract is to “end at 5:00 p.m. (Houston Time) on December 31, 2008.” During the 24 month period of May 2005 to May 2007, Linebarger’s collection practices resulted in the forced payment of penalty, interest, attorney fees, and culminated in a tax lawsuit on May 2007. Linebarger’s actions violated, on multiple occasions, the following (Enclosure A) federal and state laws (as they pertain to the collection of property taxes):
1. Texas Property Tax Code Section 31.02;
2. Texas Property Tax Code Section 33.43(a)(5);
3. Texas Property Tax Code Section 33.43 (10)-(11); and
4. Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Section 501(d).
Subsequent to a news story (See Enclosure B) on May 23, 2008, by Houston’s Channel 11 reporter Dave Fehling, Linebarger submitted a statement that “At the time we filed suit … against Captain Iraheta, not all systems were in place to recognize his military status or his eligibility for the military deferral…” The facts do not support the statement by Linebarger given that:
1. The Texas law referenced above was passed in 2003;
2. Linebarger’s contract has been in effect since January 14, 2004;
3. Linebarger states on page 2 of the contract that it is “a firm with substantial experience in the collection of delinquent ad valorem taxes…”;
4. Per Section 1.2(p)(3)-(4), there would have been a monthly Suit Checklist Report and Lawsuit Report that would have shown a tax suit against me was not allowed under state and federal law;
5. Per Section 1.3(e), when Harris County accepted Linebarger’s tax collection “System” in January 2004, a performance review by a third-party consultant would have verified that the “System” complied with “(i) the provisions of the Tax Code…”;
6. Section 1.5 required Linebarger to employ “legal means necessary and appropriate for the collection of delinquent ad valorem taxes…” and “comply with all applicable state, federal, and local laws…”; and
7. My military waiver and tax deferral had been approved by the Harris County Tax Office on May 2005 (See Enclosure C).
Given Linebarger’s numerous violations of federal and state law as it applies to military personnel and property taxes, I respectfully request that prior to Linebarger’s contract renewal, or a new contract is made with another collection entity:
1. An official inquiry is made by Harris County to ensure that Linebarger’s tax collection “System” is compliant with “…the provisions of the Tax Code”;
2. Harris County exercises the elements of Section 3.0, INDEMNITY, to recover the costs to Harris County and taxpayers for Linebarger’s collection actions in violation of the the Texas Property Tax Code and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act;
3. Require that in any notice subsequent to Section 1.5(g), Linebarger provide notice to property owners of rights and entitlements provided by Texas Property Tax Code § 31.02 and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 U.S.C. App. §§ 501(d);
4. Require Linebarger to draw up written policies for its collection procedures to comply with the elements of Texas Property Tax Code § 31.02, §33.43(a)(5), § 33.43(10), and §33.43(11); the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 U.S.C. App. §§ 501(d). Furthermore, for the policies and procedures for military exemptions and deferrals shall include elements similar those proposed in Enclosure D, Military Waivers and Deferrals;
5. Linebarger makes modifications and updates to the tax collection software and system (“System”) to make it compliant with Texas Property Tax Code § 31.02, §33.43(a)(5), § 33.43(10), and §33.43(11); the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 U.S.C. App. §§ 501(d); and
6. Linebarger designates a person responsible for oversight and compliance of Texas Property Tax Code and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
Linebarger’s position is that it can act with impunity in its collection practices “provided the conduct – however frivolous or wrongful – occurred in the discharge of his or her duties…” Our men and women in uniform make numerous sacrifices in their daily lives supporting and defending our nation’s freedom. Their rights, entitlements, and protection pursuant to Texas Property Tax Code § 31.02, §33.43(a)(5), § 33.43(10), and §33.43(11); and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 U.S.C. App. §§ 501(d), should not be one of those sacrifices. Harris County should take all steps possible to ensure Linebarger’s collection practices comply with the law and military personnel’s rights, both federal and state, are respected.
I thank you in advance for your time, attention, and action in this important matter.
Jose D. Iraheta
Captain, United States Air Force
A. Excerpts, Applicable Law Regarding Property Taxes
B. Channel 11 News Story, May 24, 2008
C. Approval of Military Waiver and Tax Deferral
D. Proposed Procedures – Military Waivers and Deferrals
Excerpts, Applicable Law Regarding Property Taxes
…(b) An eligible person serving on active duty in any branch of the United States armed forces during a war or national emergency declared in accordance with federal law may pay delinquent property taxes on property in which the person owns any interest without penalty or interest no later than the 60th day after the date on which the earliest of the following occurs:
(1) the person is discharged from active military service;
(2) the person returns to the state for more than 10 days;
(3) the person returns to non-active duty status in the reserves; or
(4) the war or national emergency ends…
(d) A person eligible under Subsection (b) or any co-owner of property that is owned by an eligible person may notify the county tax assessor or collector or central appraisal district for the county in which the property is located of the person’s eligibility for exemption under Subsection (b). The county tax assessor or collector or central appraisal district shall provide the forms necessary for those individuals giving notice under this subsection. If the notice is timely given, a taxing unit in the county may not bring suit for delinquent taxes for the tax year in which the notice is given. Failure to file a notice does not affect eligibility for the waiver of penalties and interest…
…(f) This section applies only to property in which the person eligible for the exemption owned an interest on the date the person was transferred out of this state as described by Subsection (c) or in which the person acquired the interest by gift, devise, or inheritance after that date.
(g) For the purposes of this section, a person is considered to be on active military duty if the person is covered by the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940 (50 App. U.S.C. Section 501 et seq.) or the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (38 U.S.C. Section 4301 et seq.), as amended.Section 33.43. Petition.
(a) A petition initiating a suit to collect a delinquent property tax is sufficient if it alleges that:…
(5) penalties, interest, and costs authorized by law in a stated amount for each separately assessed property are due;…
(10) all things required by law to be done have been done properly by the appropriate officials; and
(11) the attorney signing the petition is legally authorized to prosecute the suit on behalf of the taxing unit.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, (50 App. U.S.C. Section 501 et seq.)
TITLE V—TAXES AND PUBLIC LANDS
SEC. 501. TAXES RESPECTING PERSONAL PROPERTY, MONEY, CREDITS, AND REAL PROPERTY.
(a) APPLICATION.—This section applies in any case in which a tax or assessment, whether general or special (other than a tax on personal income), falls due and remains unpaid before or during a period of military service with respect to a servicemember’s…
…(d) INTEREST ON TAX OR ASSESSMENT.—Whenever a servicemember does not pay a tax or assessment on property described in subsection (a) when due, the amount of the tax or assessment due and unpaid shall bear interest until paid at the rate of 6 percent per year. An additional penalty or interest shall not be incurred by reason of nonpayment. A lien for such unpaid tax or assessment may include interest under this subsection.
(e) JOINT OWNERSHIP APPLICATION.—This section applies to all forms of property described in subsection (a) owned individually by a servicemember or jointly by a servicemember and a dependent or dependents.
Proposed Procedures – Military Waivers and Deferrals)
Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson
Military Waiver & Deferrals Procedures
1. Q&A Brochure
Linebarger prepares a brochure entitled “Military Personnel Property Tax Rights”. This brochure advises the military member of rights, entitlements, protections and qualification requirements under the Texas Property Tax Code and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This brochure is available at Linebarger’s office at all times and is enclosed with Linebarger’s first yearly delinquency mailing.
2. Account Status/Collection Activity
Linebarger’s account status field, and tax collection “System” computations, include the following:
a. Account status field include a code indicating if an account has an active duty military deferral;
b. account status field include a code indicating if an account has an active duty military exemption but no deferral;
c. the event that an active duty military taxpayer does not qualify rights and entitlements under any of the following: Texas Property Tax Code § 31.02, §33.43(a)(5), § 33.43(10), and §33.43(11); the System computes $0.00 in penalties, attorneys’ fees and collections’ costs, and assesses interests as permitted, and limited to the rates set, in the Servicemember Civil Relief Act, 50 U.S.C. App. §§ 501(d);
d. in the event that an active duty military taxpayer qualifies for qualify rights and entitlements under any of the following: Texas Property Tax Code § 31.02, §33.43(a)(5), § 33.43(10), and §33.43(11), and the Servicemember Civil Relief Act, 50 U.S.C. App. §§ 501(d); the System computes $0.00 in penalties, interests, attorneys’ fees and collections’ costs;
e. system able to accurately read and translate data from magnetic tapes, or other storage medium, and correctly code account status and make required computations compliant with Texas Property Tax Code § 31.02, §33.43(a)(5), § 33.43(10), and §33.43(11); the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 U.S.C. App. §§ 501(d);
Linebarger has MILITARY PROPERTY OWNER’S REQUEST FOR WAIVER OF DELINQUENT PENALTY AND INTEREST forms in its office and provides those to servicemembers upon request.
Linbarger does not file tax suits on accounts which are coded as military waiver or military deferment without prior personal approval from the Tax Assessor-Collector. Should at anytime the attorney handling the case is aware that the taxpayer is a servicemember and that he has a military waiver or deferment, the attorney is to advise the servicemember of his/her rights pursuant to the Texas Property Tax Code and/or Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (as applicable). Unless explicitly authorized by a Court Order, state or federal law, Linebarger will immediately cease all litigation action and move expeditiously to dismiss the tax suit.
4. Foreclosure/Sale of Property
Linebarger does not foreclose on accounts coded for military waiver or military deferral without the prior written approval of the Commissioners Court.
Texas is home to tens of thousands of military families. The law firm of Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, L.L.P. handles the collection of property taxes for the majority of Texas’ taxing entities. It seems that Linebarger believes itself to be above the law when it comes to its collection practices. It’s even willing to violate state and federal law affording protection, entitlements, and deferments to military personnel and their families.
They claim they sued me because they did not have everything in place. Quite surprising for a “professional” firm whose collection contract with Harris County expires on December 2008 and the Texas law giving military personnel rights regarding property taxes was passed in 2003. I guess Linebarger was waiting for the contract to expire before having everything “in place”.
Jose D. Iraheta
Captain, United States Air Force