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Title 1. Property Tax Code
Subtitle E. Collections and Delinquency

Chapter 33. Delinquency

Subchapter D. Tax Masters

Sec. 33.71. Masters for Tax Suits.
Sec. 33.72. Report Transmitted to Court; Notice.
Sec. 33.73. Court Action on Master's Report; Master's Compensation.
Sec. 33.74. Appeal of Recommendation of Final Judgment to the Referring Court or on Request of the Referring Court.
Sec. 33.75. Decree or Order of Court.
Sec. 33.76. Jury Trial Demanded.
Sec. 33.77. Effect of Master's Report Pending Appeal.
Sec. 33.78. Masters May Not Be Appointed Under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
Sec. 33.79. Immunity.
Sec. 33.80. Court Reporter.

[Sections 33.81 to 33.90 reserved for expansion]

Sec. 33.71. Masters for Tax Suits.

(a) The court may, in delinquent tax suits, for good cause appoint a master in chancery for each case as desired, who shall be a citizen of this state and not an attorney for either party to the action, nor related to either party, who shall perform all of the duties required by the court, be under orders of the court, and have the power the master of chancery has in a court of equity.

(b) The order of reference to the master may specify or limit the master's powers, and may direct the master to report only upon particular issues, or to do or perform particular acts, or to receive and report evidence only, and may fix the time and place for beginning and closing the hearings and for the filing of the master's report.

(c) Subject to the limitations and specifications stated in the order, the master may:

(1) regulate all proceedings in every hearing before the master and do all acts and take all measures necessary or proper for the efficient performance of duties under the order;

(2) require the production of evidence upon all matters embraced in the reference, including the production of books, papers, vouchers, documents, and other writings applicable to the case;

(3) rule upon the admissibility of evidence, unless otherwise directed by the order of reference;

(4) put witnesses on oath, and examine them; and

(5) call the parties to the action and examine them upon oath.

(d) When a party requests, the master shall make a record of the evidence offered and excluded in the same manner as provided for a court sitting in the trial of a case.

(e) The clerk of the court shall forthwith furnish the master with a copy of the order of reference.

(f) The parties may procure the attendance of witnesses before the master by the issuance and service of process as provided by law.

(g) A pretrial ruling of a tax master from which a mandamus is sought must be appealed to the referring court before the initiation of mandamus proceedings before the court of appeals.

(h) Notwithstanding any other law or requirement, an attorney appointed a master under this section may practice law in the referring court if otherwise qualified to do so.

Added by 1991 Tex. Laws, p. 1808, ch. 525, Sec. 1; amended by 2001 Tex. Laws, p. 562, ch. 326, Sec. 1.

Notes:

A district court that fails to begin or complete an appeal of a ruling of a master in chancery until after the statutory 45-day limit from the filing of the initial appeal does not lose its jurisdiction over the case. In an appeal de novo, taxing authorities have the burden of showing evidence that establishes a property owner's tax liability. Godwin v. Aldine Independent School District, 961 S.W.2d 219 (Tex. App. - Houston 1997).

Sec. 33.72. Report Transmitted to Court; Notice.

(a) At the conclusion of any hearing conducted by a master that results in a recommendation of a final judgment or on the request of the referring court, the master shall transmit to the referring court all papers relating to the case, with the master's signed and dated report.

(b) After the master's report has been signed, the master shall give to the parties participating in the hearing notice of the substance of the report. The master's report may contain the master's findings, conclusions, or recommendations. The master's report must be in writing in a form as the referring court may direct. The form may be a notation on the referring court's docket sheet.

(c) If the master's report recommends a final judgment, notice of the right of appeal to the judge of the referring court shall be given to all parties.

Added by 1991 Tex. Laws, p. 1809, ch. 525, Sec. 1.

Sec. 33.73. Court Action on Master's Report; Master's Compensation.

(a) After the master's report is filed, and unless a party has filed a written notice of appeal to the referring court, the court may confirm, modify, correct, reject, reverse or recommit the report as the court may deem proper and necessary in the particular circumstances of the case.

(b) The court shall award reasonable compensation to the master to be taxed as costs of suit.

Added by 1991 Tex. Laws, p. 1809, ch. 525, Sec. 1.

Sec. 33.74. Appeal of Recommendation of Final Judgment to the Referring Court or on Request of the Referring Court.

(a) Any party is entitled to a hearing by the judge of the referring court, if within 10 days, computed in the manner provided by Rule 4 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, after the master gives the notice required by Section 33.72(c), an appeal of the master's report is filed with the referring court. The first day of the appeal time to the referring court begins on the day after the date on which the master gives the notice.

(b) The notice required by Section 33.72(c) may be given in open court or may be given by first class mail. If the notice is given by first class mail the notice is considered to have been given on the third day after the date of the mailing.

(c) All appeals to the referring court shall be in writing specifying the findings and conclusions of the master that are objected to and the appeal shall be limited to those findings and conclusions.

(d) On appeal to the referring court, the parties may present witnesses as in a hearing de novo only on the issues raised in the appeal.

(e) Notice of any appeal to the referring court shall be given to opposing counsel under Rule 72 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

(f) If an appeal to the referring court is filed by a party, any other party may file an appeal to the referring court not later than the seventh day after the date the initial appeal was filed.

(g) The referring court, after notice to the parties, shall hold a hearing on all appeals not later than the 45th day after the date on which the initial appeal was filed with the referring court.

(h) Before a hearing before a master, the parties may waive the right of appeal to the referring court in writing or on the record.

(i) The failure to appeal to the referring court, by waiver or otherwise, a master's report that is approved by the referring court does not deprive any party of the right to appeal to or request other relief from a court of appeals or the supreme court. The date of the signing of an order or judgment by the referring court is the controlling date for the purposes of appeal to or request for other relief from a court of appeals or the supreme court.

Added by 1991 Tex. Laws, p. 1809, ch. 525, Sec. 1.

Notes:

When a notice of appeal is filed properly after a recommendation from a master in chancery is issued, the referring district court is required to hold a de novo hearing. City of Houston v. Alief Independent School District, 117 S.W.3d 913 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, no pet. h.).

Sec. 33.75. Decree or Order of Court.

If an appeal to the referring court is not filed or the right to an appeal to the referring court is waived, the findings and recommendations of the master become the decree or order of the referring court on the referring court's signing an order or decree conforming to the master's report.

Added by 1991 Tex. Laws, p. 1810, ch. 525, Sec. 1.

Sec. 33.76. Jury Trial Demanded.

(a) In a trial on the merits, if a jury trial is demanded and a jury fee is paid, as prescribed by Rule 216, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the master shall refer any matters requiring a jury back to the referring court for a full trial before the referring court and jury. However, the master shall conduct all pretrial work necessary to prepare the case for a jury trial.

(b) The master may require all parties to submit a proposed jury charge or other pretrial order or sanction the parties for failure to present or prepare a proper pretrial order

Added by 1991 Tex. Laws, p. 1810, ch. 525, Sec. 1.

Sec. 33.77. Effect of Master's Report Pending Appeal.

Pending appeal of the master's report to the referring court, the decisions and recommendations of the master are in full force and effect and are enforceable as an order of the referring court, except for orders providing for incarceration or for the appointment of a receiver.

Added by 1991 Tex. Laws, p. 1810, ch. 525, Sec. 1.

Sec. 33.78. Masters May Not be Appointed Under Texas Rules
of Civil Procedure.

A court may not appoint a master under Rule 171, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, in a delinquent tax suit.

Added by 1991 Tex. Laws, p. 1810, ch. 525, Sec. 1.

Sec. 33.79. Immunity.

A master appointed under this subchapter has the judicial immunity of a district judge. All existing immunity granted masters by law, express or implied, continues in full force and effect.

Added by 1991 Tex. Laws, p. 1810, ch. 525, Sec. 1.

Sec. 33.80. Court Reporter.

A court reporter is not required during a hearing held by a master appointed under this subchapter. A party, the master, or the referring court may provide for a reporter during the hearing. The record may be preserved by any other means approved by the master. The referring court or master may tax the expense of preserving the record as costs

Added by 1991 Tex. Laws, p. 1810, ch. 525, Sec. 1.

Cross Reference:

Transferred Section, see Sec. 1.13.
Delinquent tax suits, see Sec. 33.41.
Recovery of costs and expenses, see Sec. 33.48.

[Sections 33.81 to 33.90 reserved for expansion]