Dismissal sought for suit against Hibbing legal plan administrator

Mark Stodghill , Duluth News Tribune

The St. Louis County Attorney’s Office has asked the court to dismiss a lawsuit it brought against a Hibbing legal plan administrator it claimed was practicing law without a license.

The lawsuit was filed in June against Edward Jonak, doing business as Affordable Law Center and Affordable Court Services, alleging that he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by advertising that he was competent or qualified to give legal advice, that he had prepared legal documents for clients and provided legal advice and counsel to clients.

“Our goal from the beginning was to get Mr. Jonak to comply with the statute, and he agreed to comply with all provisions of the statute,’’ said Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Tokunbo Okanla. “We don’t want him to engage in anything that would be the unauthorized practice of law. We have presented it to the court, and the court is going to order that the case be dismissed based on the agreement we both came to.’’

The statute she referred to states in part that it is unlawful for any person except those licensed to practice law “to give legal advice or counsel, or to prepare legal documents, or as being engaged in advising or counseling in law or … in furnishing to others the services of a lawyer or lawyers, or, for a fee or any consideration to give legal advice or counsel.”

A two-day court trial before Judge Heather Sweetland had been scheduled to start next Thursday in St. Louis County District Court in Duluth. The case will be dismissed without prejudice, which means it could be brought again.

Jonak was reached by phone in Minneapolis Friday, where the Affordable Law Center also has an office in addition to its Hibbing location.

Jonak said he is a legal plan administrator and does not have a license to practice law. He said he did nothing wrong.

“I think they saw it was in the best interest of all at this point,’’ Jonak said of the dismissal. “No one was harmed by anything I have done. I don’t think they wanted to pursue this because potentially there’s more downside to pursuing organizations that provide low-cost legal plan assistance to individuals. … Legal plans were started in the early ’70s, and they were started to provide good services and reasonable fees that people couldn’t find from private attorneys.’’

Sweetland had granted the county attorney’s motion for a temporary restraining order prohibiting Jonak from giving legal advice, preparing legal documents or advertising services to the public.

The Affordable Law Center claims to provide clients access to affordable legal help in the areas of bankruptcy, divorce, criminal DUI, living trusts, wills and adoption assistance. Jonak said Friday that the law center is back in business.

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