Rick was named the Center’s Executive Director in February 2012. He joined CFJ as a staff attorney in 2004, specializing in environmental and land use litigation. He became the first Spokane Riverkeeper in 2009 and served in that position for over a year. Prior to joining the Center, Rick had the honor of representing the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho for seven years on a variety of environmental, natural resource, cultural resource, and treaty-rights protection cases. Rick received his J.D. and a certificate in environmental and natural resources law from the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Rick is a graduate of Leadership Spokane class of 2013. When he’s away from work, Rick is focused on his son Noah and his daughter Violet and occasionally has time to whitewater raft, hike, or cross-country ski.
Danette Lanet joined CFJ as a Paralegal in 2010. A Spokane native, Danette holds a BA in History and an MBA, from Gonzaga University and has worked in the legal field since 1996. Danette appreciates the unpredictable nature of the law and the frequent interactions with clients. Her greatest gifts are her children, Logan and Emma. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her family, watching sports, being crafty and cooking.
Barry advocates for clients facing problems with housing, discrimination, public benefits, and consumer protection issues. He is also focused on increasing cooperation between the medical and legal professions to lower costs and improve outcomes. Barry is a fifth generation commercial fisherman and also served six years in the US Navy Nuclear Power Program. After his honorable discharge, he finished undergraduate studies and spent several years in politics, working for a congressman, state senator, and two governors. His last job before entering law school at Gonzaga University was with a non-profit, advocating for modernization of the power grid to increase efficiency and sustainable power generation. Barry was an attorney with the Northwest Justice Project, Washington’s publicly funded legal aid program, for three years prior to joining the team here at CFJ. He is accredited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and is admitted to practice in Washington, the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Washington, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
Lisa joined the Center as an Accountant in 2011. She is a graduate of the University of Glasgow, and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland. She trained with the international accounting firm Price Waterhouse (Coopers). A year after qualifying she moved to a government enterprise company assisting small start-ups, applying for grants and managing European Funding. Looking to expand her experience she joined Scottish and Newcastle Breweries. There, she had various roles: internal auditor; Finance Manager of the International Export company; and Marketing Accountant. Originally from Scotland, Lisa moved to Spokane in 2004 with her family on an overseas assignment for two years, and has remained here ever since. In her spare time she loves to ski, run, walk, bike and generally be active outside with her family. She also likes to read and cook family meals.
Jule works on water quality and nonpoint pollution in the Spokane River watershed for Spokane Riverkeeper. Although born in Oklahoma, Jule moved to Anacortes, Washington when he was 12, where he began his lifelong love of the water and all things in it. He graduated with a B.A. in Biology from Lewis and Clark College and then went on to earn his Master’s degree in Marine Biology from the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Coos Bay, Oregon. Jule comes to the Center for Justice by way of Olympia, where he helped regulate the shellfish industry for the State Department of Health. Jule is married to the always wonderful Katy Sheehan and has two very active sons.
Virla has been the Center’s Outreach Coordinator since 2011. Born in North Little Rock, Arkansas, Virla came to Spokane as a teen in the midst of a family crisis. By her own admission, she has lived a difficult life, one that includes a felony conviction, in 2001, for malicious mischief. But few people have harvested their hardships better than Virla Spencer. Though Virla first came to the Center as a client in 2005–to restore her driver’s license–she returned in 2009 as a volunteer, and then filled a key Americorps Vista position as Outreach Director. Since then she has distinguished herself not only with her outreach skills but as a forcefully articulate advocate for the needs and rights of the underprivileged in our community. Virla is the single mother of four girls, two boys, and also cares for a live-in nephew. She is active in the Church of Berachah and regularly volunteers at Truth Ministries in Spokane to help feed homeless and disadvantaged men. Spokane’s weekly newspaper, The Inlander, recognized Virla’s heart and her talents for making a positive difference in other people’s lives with a 2013 Peirone Prize.
Jerry was born in Corvallis, Oregon near the Willamette River. His family moved to Cheney where he grew up exploring the lakes, rivers and forests of the area. From a young age he traveled each spring to fish for native Chinook salmon with his grandfather on the Willamette. Jerry has a long history of working to protect rivers in the Inland Northwest. As a former staff member of Save our Wild Salmon, Jerry advocated for the restoration and protection of native Snake River salmon and steelhead. He has worked for native trout as conservation chair and continues to volunteer for the Spokane Falls Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Currently, he is a board member of Inland Northwest Nature Connection. He loves to spend time on the Spokane River fly fishing for trout, rowing his drift boat, shooting one of his longbows or backcountry skiing on the very snow that feeds our River. Jerry lives with his wife, two sons and two barky heeler dogs within earshot of the Spokane River.
LaTisha Conto began working with nonprofits many years ago when she was given the task of bringing the Long Beach Reads One Book festival to life. She used her creativity and passion for the arts to create and produce multiple events in the citywide, weeklong event. She then moved into the role of Development Assistant at American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. In this position she was able to further develop her skills while learning how to fundraise for a divisive organization. In her most recent role at the Spokane Symphony, she served as Manager of Corporate Partnerships and was responsible for reenergizing the concert sponsorship program. LaTisha is also a writer. She is a frequent contributor to the female empowerment website GirlTalkHQ, has appeared on Huffington Post Live and writes a political fan fiction blog about an 8 year old girl who serves as President Obama’s aide. She is so happy to be working in an organization that respects and advocates for the rights of all individuals.
While attending Gonzaga University School of Law, Alexander Biel began his focus on criminal defense and international law. He externed at the Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, where he diligently worked with supervising attorneys on federal felony cases. He appeared in federal court as lead counsel for petty offense cases, and has worked well with prosecutors in resolving issues expeditiously. His primary focus in Spokane is criminal defense, DUIs, and Re-entry. He can speak fluent German, and is proficient in Spanish as well. Alex was born in Spokane, Washington. After graduating from Lewis and Clark High School, Alex studied foreign languages at the University of Idaho. Upon graduation, he moved to Austria to teach English as a second language as a Fulbright Fellow. Once his visa expired, however, he returned home to help manage the family business, Urbanna Natural Salon and Spa. It was only at this time that he decided a legal education would allow him to continue to positively impact the lives of the community in which he lives. When Alex isn’t working, he enjoys travelling, snowboarding, golf, chess, and climbing.
Jeffry Finer (of counsel)
In his thirty years as a lawyer, Jeff has become well known for litigating high-profile civil rights cases including the nationally known Spokane Gypsy case and a Spokane clinic picketing case in which he successfully advocated for the privacy rights of women seeking abortions. His cases have taken him to every level of the American justice system, including a 1996 case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Jeff was named Spokane’s top civil rights lawyer for three years in a row by Spokane Living Magazine. Before moving to Spokane in 1984, Jeff earned his undergraduate degree at Yale (Fine Arts) and his law degree from the New Mexico School of Law. Jeffry also teaches as an adjunct professor at Gonzaga Law School, focusing on courses in trial practice and criminal law. Jeff is married to Spokane physician Stacie Bering who is well known and admired in Spokane for her work as an obstetrician and, more recently, a palliative care provider and beloved teacher. They have two children: Zack is a college student in British Columbia and Cassie manages an REI store in California. Jeff loves telemark skiing and spending time in his backyard studio where he paints in oils and beeswax. If you catch him with any free time, he’s probably playing the ancient board game, Go, on the computer.