Thursday, February 19, 2009
Superior Court Commissioner ‘Trip’ Webster to Retire
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner H.M. “Trip” Webster III will retire March 30 after almost 12 years on the bench, the MetNews has learned.
Webster was unavailable for comment yesterday, but fellow Commissioner Nicholas D. Taubert confirmed his longtime colleague’s retirement plans.
Taubert followed Webster to the bench after both spent 20 years handling family support cases in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, and said his “old friend” was retiring after having turned 60 “because he can,” but added he did not expect Webster to return to practice.
Webster was appointed commissioner in 1997 by the Superior Court’s judges as one of three family support commissioners hired that year. Both he and Taubert preside over support cases in the Central Civil West Courthouse.
Born Henry Morton Webster III in San Francisco, Webster goes by his childhood nickname “Trip,” short for “triple.” His father, Henry M. Webster II, was a career administrator in the federal Veterans Administration, who the commissioner in a 1999 interview said had always encouraged him to become a lawyer.
Webster graduated from college at UCLA in 1970 and joined the U.S. Navy that year, where he served as an assistant public affairs officer supervising journalists producing a newspaper and radio and TV shows aboard the aircraft carrier Oriskany, which was docked at Alameda near Oakland.
He left the military in 1972 and entered law school at Pepperdine University School of Law, then located in Orange County, but transferred to Southwestern University School of Law after his first year and was admitted to the State Bar in 1976 following graduation.
That year, Webster became a research attorney for the Superior Court in its Torrance-based Southwest District, researching and writing tentative rulings on civil law and motion matters. He also spent one day per week in Santa Monica conducting research for Judge Mario Clinco, now deceased.
Webster joined the District Attorney’s Office in 1977, and spent the following 20 years in the office’s Bureau of Family Support Operations.
Until 2001, when its functions were transferred to the county’s Child Support Services Department amidst criticism of the District Attorney’s Office, the bureau oversaw civil family support cases, which originate when a custodial parent seeks welfare payments from the county, the welfare program’s administrator.
Parents seeking payments assign child support rights to the county, and Webster argued paternity cases for the bureau and obtained orders requiring defendants to provide child support, welfare reimbursement and healthcare coverage. He also initiated enforcement proceedings when defendants failed to comply, ranging from wage garnishment and personal property seizure to criminal prosecution.
Prior to becoming a commissioner, Webster served for three months as a family support referee.
Taubert said that a retirement party for Webster is planned for April 3 at 12:30pm at the San Antonio Winery.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company