Ridgefield Permian v. Diamondback is another case arising out of the same tax foreclosure suit that was addressed in Mitchell v. MAP Resources, decided earlier this year by the Texas Supreme Court. My discussion of Mitchell can be found here. Both Ridgefield and Mitchell were initially decided by the El Paso Court of Appeals. While Mitchell’s appeal to the Supreme Court was pending the El Paso Court handed down its opinion in Ridgefield, 2021 WL 1783260 (May 5, 2021). In Ridgefield, the El Paso Court held that the taxing authorities’ lien attached only to the royalty interest reserved in the lease; once the lease terminated, the purchaser of the royalty interest foreclosed upon owned no interest in the mineral estate. This week, the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear Ridgefield’s appeal of the El Paso Court’s judgment.
Alberta Griffith owned a 1/7th interest in the surface and minerals in a section of land in Reeves County. When she died her interest passed to her two sons, Albert and David, subject to a life estate interest in her surviving husband. In 1975, the husband and sons signed an oil and gas lease to Billings, reserving a 1/8th royalty. A well, the Meriwether No. 1, was completed on the lease.
In 1998, there was a small tax debt owed by Mr. Griffith and Albert on their royalty in the Meriwether lease. That year the taxing districts filed suit to foreclose tax liens against several hundred defendants, including Mr. Griffith and Albert. In the suit their interests were each described as a .005952 decimal interest in the Meriwether lease (each owning a royalty of 1/3 of 1/7 of 1/8 royalty). Judgment was entered foreclosing the lien, the interests were sold at Sheriff’s sale, and the interests came to be owned by Magnolia, LLC.