Hibbing 'law center' in legal trouble

A Hibbing business that claims to offer "low-cost divorce programs, affordable DUI assistance" and "low-cost bankruptcy" is facing legal trouble of its own.


A Hibbing business that claims to offer "low-cost divorce programs, affordable DUI assistance" and "low-cost bankruptcy" is facing legal trouble of its own.

Affordable Law Center, 604 W. 41st St., Hibbing, which also has an office in Minneapolis, "misled and deceived" debtors "into thinking that they are receiving all of these bankruptcy-related services," according to a civil complaint filed by U.S. Trustee Habbo Fokkena against Edward Jonak, who operates the business, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Minnesota District.

The business also has operated under the names Christian Discount Attorney Services and American Lawworx.

The complaint asks that Jonak be required to pay damages to 18 clients listed in the complaint, and to desist from:

  • Advertising for any services other than as a typist of legal documents.
  • Accepting any fees in excess of $69 for typing the legal documents.
  • Representing to individuals that the defendant is associated with any attorney. Jonak, who lives in Blaine, Minn., said in a phone interview: "We believe in offering our legal plan to the public and do not believe we're violating any law in doing so."

    Chuck Naughton, a Twin Cities attorney who represents Jonak, was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

    The complaint lists fees paid to Affordable Law Center by debtors facing bankruptcy ranging from $299 to $600. It says contracts with debtors vary, but a typical contract offers a financial plan for up to $580, including debt review/negotiation, bankruptcy filing, post-bankruptcy credit guidance, Social Security/Disability assistance and one-year legal plan benefits. Later, the debtors are told they will have to pay an additional $69 for a typist.

    The complaint also states that Affordable Law Center claims the debtor will have access to a "program attorney." But it says no attorney had filed the legal statement that would have been required for that service, and none of the debtors had access to an attorney.

    Jonak denied that, saying he charges a flat $680 fee that includes the $69 fee for a typist and includes consultation by an attorney at no additional charge. The client can choose to hire the attorney for additional representation, but doesn't have to do so to complete bankruptcy proceedings, he said. The only additional fees the debtor will face are court fees and fees for financial counseling required by the court.

    Sarah Wencil, the attorney representing the Trustee's office, was unavailable for comment on Thursday. Several of the

    18 clients listed in the complaint had unlisted or out-of-service phone numbers, or did not return calls. The two clients who were reached declined to comment.

    Jonak said he has been in business in Hibbing for nine years and is still in business. He was unable to say how many clients he has served.

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