Andrew Brajcich, Treasurer
Andrew Brajcich is an Assistant Professor of Accounting at Gonzaga and brings a financial background to the board. He grew up in Spokane, worked as a counselor at the YMCA Camp Reed and served in the U.S. Peace Corps in the Republic of Georgia. More recently, he worked at the Big 4 accounting firm of Deloitte. He is also licensed to practice law in Washington.
Elsa Distelhorst, President
Elsa Distelhorst is retired, devoting her time to traveling, family, friends, and volunteer work. Elsa chairs both the Center for Justice Board and Rockwood Foundation. She retired following 25 years of service at Whitworth University, the last 15 years as Director of Development. Elsa has served many Spokane organizations including The Mayor’s Race Relations Task Force, Nishinomiya Sister City (President 95-97), Japan Week Spokane (Founding Chair – 8 years), Unity in Action (steering committee 95-98), Intercollegiate Racial Concerns Committee (member 97-99), and Churches Against Racism. A 1988 graduate of Leadership Spokane and Board Chair (97-98), she brings a strong personal commitment to economic and social justice, intercultural understanding, and community service, and extensive experience in fundraising and non-profit board development.
Patty’s enthusiasm for social and environmental justice began with her childhood in the Skagit Valley and her college years at WSU. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and taking time to travel, she settled in Spokane and obtained her teaching credential from Whitworth University. Patty recalls her 19 years as a teacher and staff developer for the Spokane Public Schools as some of her most rewarding. In 1997 Patty joined the non-profit community as a foundation director where she developed her passion for bringing people together to strengthen the web of connections that build community. Newly retired, she has joined the boards of the Center for Justice, Community Building Foundation, and is an Advisory Committee member for the Spokane Riverkeeper.
Carole Hemingway, Vice President
Carole is a retired lawyer who, during the later years of her practice in Spokane, focused primarily on family law. A 1981 Graduate of Gonzaga University Law school, Carole began her law career working as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Washington. In that role she represented the state’s Department of Social and Health Services, and her work included cases of child abuse and neglect. She also worked with local Native American tribes on family issues. Carole was one of the original members of the SCAN (Spokane Abuse And Neglect prevention center) team working with other professionals on services and solutions for Spokane’s most vulnerable children.
After retirement Carole volunteered as Resource Director for the Loon Lake Food Bank and later helped establish a program through Stevens County Superior Court for parties representing themselves in dissolution actions. She resides very happily with her retired Public Defender husband Gary in the woods of Stevens County.
Lewis Russell “Rusty” Nelson
Rusty came to Spokane in 1981 and resumed a broadcasting career that began in his home state of Georgia after a military tour in Vietnam. In 1988, he joined the staff of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane. With his wife Nancy, he co-directed PJALS for over 20 years. He has been on the boards of KYRS, the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and the Georgia Association of Newscasters. Founding President of Spokane Veterans for Peace, he’s active in Shalom Church (Mennonite and United Church of Christ) which meets in the Community Building.
Rusty and Nancy live in a straw bale house in rural Spokane County. They have two children and five grandchildren.
Nick Pontarolo has followed the Center for Justice since its inception. As a believer in social justice and with a vested interest in the Spokane community it was a natural fit for Nick to join the Board. He practices law in Spokane and is proud of the fact that he did not attend law school, but apprenticed at a local law firm for four years prior to taking the bar exam. Nick enjoys being outside as much possible and he can be found wherever there is snow and a pitch steep enough to ski.
Jeremiah Sataraka unapologetically believes that everybody has the right to live in a just and equitable world. His passion for justice and philosophy on social change are encompassed in the words of Arundhati Roy, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” Originally from Tacoma, WA he now resides in Pullman, WA where he is working on a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education.
Jim Sheehan, Past President
Jim Sheehan, founded the Center for Justice in 1999. After graduating from Gonzaga Law School and spending more than 20 years as a public defender in Eastern and Western Washington, he received a windfall inheritance and wanted to put it to work for the greater good. Jim renovated the rundown Saranac Hotel, recreating it as the Community Building, a safe, welcoming, and affordable home for area nonprofit offices in Spokane’s downtown. And he founded the Center — a nonprofit law firm dedicated to protecting human rights, preserving the Earth, and holding the government accountable to the principles of democracy. Since Jim established the Center, it has served its numerous clients at low or no cost.
The son of a house painter and a housewife, Jim grew up near the University of Washington. He graduated from college in California and served two years in the army. It was during his service at Fort Brag that he witnessed overt racism for the first time. After his discharge from the army in 1969, Jim enrolled in law school where, between playing basketball and spending time with friends, he was able to squeeze in time for studying. Jim also serves on the board of the New Priorities Foundation.
Joe has a long standing relationship with the Center for Justice and the Spokane community. He has supported CFJ’s mission and been an active participant through multiple different roles over the years. He began as a volunteer through Lewis and Clark’s Practicum in Community Involvement (PICI) program and as a coach for the soccer camp that CFJ founded in 2000. Joe became an employee at the Center working during his summers off from the University of Montana. He was also a part of the Community Building Staff from 2008-2011 while maintaining a working relationship with CFJ as a tenant. He has been a board member since the beginning of 2014.
Lorna St John, Secretary
Lorna joined the Center for Justice board in early 2013. She has been a community activist as far back as the 1970’s and it was this experience as well as having CFJ represent her community against the County that has led her to join the CFJ board. In her varied working career, Lorna has been a steelworker, a fashion coordinator, a 4-H leader, manager of a thoroughbred horse ranch, a customer service professional, and a veterinary clinic manager. Lorna spent ten years as a fashion coordinator for a major department store, producing fashion shows, special events, working as a stylist on advertising shoots, and accompanying buyers to fashion markets in Los Angeles and New York. Currently, she is executive producer and business manager at Hamilton Studio.
Emeritus Board Members
Laurel Sheehan O’Neill
Lolly Sheehan O’Neill, a Center for Justice board member since 1999, resides on the west side of Washington state and enjoys traveling. And that’s fortunate for the Center, because that means she is willing to make the cross-state trips necessary to attend our board meetings. Born in 1942, Lolly has lived her whole life in the greater Seattle area and she graduated from Blanchet High School in 1960. A former cosmetologist, Lolly has been involved with the ACLU in the past and currently serves on the board of the Tahoma Clinic Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 1996, committed to “furthering the study and evaluation of naturally-based, ‘whole-body’ therapies.”