Friday, February 1, 2002
Longtime Superior Court Spokeswoman Hayslett to Retire
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Judges and reporters are due to gather today at the Los Angeles Superior Court to honor Jerrianne Hayslett, the court’s longtime media spokeswoman, as she prepares to retire.
Hayslett is due to step down Monday after 10 years as public information officer for the court, the largest trial court in the world. She said she expects to remain onboard for several weeks while the court conducts a search for her replacement.
The former journalist said she planned to spend time with her family.
“The events of 9-11 brought into focus just how finite everything is,” Hayslett said. “I saw that it is important to take advantage of the time we have available,” she said, explaining she wanted to spend more of that time with her family.
Although Hayslett generally has kept a low profile, her name became known to the public in the course of several highly publicized cases, including the criminal prosecution of O.J. Simpson.
The judge in that case, Lance Ito, said Hayslett provided valuable counseling.
“She has saved me from myself more than once,” Ito said. “Every time I listened to her I was in good shape. Every time I ignored her advice I was burned badly.”
Ito referred to an interview he did with television newswoman Tritia Toyota, as the trial was to get under way. He did not discuss the case at all, but he was still criticized for giving the interview, and he said he should have taken Hayslett’s advice not to do it.
“It turned out to be a bad idea to do it,” Ito said. “From that time on I took her advice.”
Judge Gregory O’Brien called Hayslett an “invaluable asset” to the court.
“She has worked tirelessly to be of assistance to our bench,” O’Brien said.
Hayslett began her career in journalism while living in Iran with her husband, who was stationed there in the U.S. Air Force. As the revolution approached, she wrote freelance stories on the social and political ferment for U.S. newspapers.
“That was sort of a life-altering experience,” Hayslett said.
Returning to the U.S., she decided to pursue journalism and returned to school to earn a communications degree. She worked as a reporter for the Riverside Press-Enterprise and later became a copy editor, finally serving as city editor of the Pasadena Star-News until going to work for the Superior Court in October 1992.
Hayslett was charged with balancing the needs of reporters on deadline seeking public information about the court and particular cases with the demands of judges who typically are less than anxious to speak to the press and place a high premium on the privacy rights of litigants and criminal defendants.
Through most of her decade-long tenure, Hayslett handled public information duties virtually by herself. With unification in 2000, she began to build a staff to assist her.
“I don’t know what we are going to do without her,” Ito said of Hayslett’s departure. “She is literally the best. The shame of it is that she’s leaving at the peak of her career.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company