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Mon attorney disbarred by supreme court

Former area attorney Michael Sharley was disbarred by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Sharley was admitted to the West Virginia State Bar in 1993 and practiced law in Monongalia County. On Oct. 11, 2019, he pleaded guilty in Monongalia County Circuit Court to contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The crime was determined to be sexually motivated and he was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for probation. He was also  ordered to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

After five years, Sharley can submit a petition with the state supreme court in an attempt to get his license back, according to the Rules of Lawyer Disciplinary Procedure. The petition must include the reason for annulment and what has been done for rehabilitation, restitution or other reasons he  should have his license restored.

In January 2018, Sharley used Facebook Messenger to try to find a minor to have sex with him at his law office. He was reported to law enforcement officers — who met him at his office instead.

On Nov. 21, 2019, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a petition seeking the annulment of Sharley’s license for violating Rule 3.18 of the Rules of Lawyer Disciplinary Procedure: “Conviction of crime that reflects adversely on a lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness.” 

Violators are subject to suspension or annulment of their law license.

According to a ruling by Kelly Ambrose, a chairperson for the Lawyer Disciplinary Board Hearing Panel that denied Sharley’s request for a mitigation hearing, the petition seeking the annulment is sealed.

Sharley asked for a mitigation hearing with five reasons supporting that request, according to Ambrose’s ruling.

Sharley argued he did not directly communicate with any underage girls and  his conduct did not violate certain rules; that he only had one prior ethics complaint, which was resolved without formal charges; and that since he pleaded guilty he did not have a chance to present his own evidence, according to the ruling.

Sharley also requested leniency because he can’t live independently and instead lives with his parents while providing financial assistance. He also stated that while his communications were “admittedly sexual in nature and for the purpose of soliciting sex from a minor, were not intended to be taken ‘literally.’ ” 

Ambrose rejected all of those arguments in her ruling.

“[Sharley] has not provided an adequate reason, legal or otherwise, that would justify the granting of a mitigation hearing.” she wrote.  “… but for the concern of a troubled citizen who reported this matter to law enforcement, along with the intervening acts of law enforcement themselves, the actions taken by [Sharley] to arrange sexual acts with a minor could have come to fruition.”

On Aug. 27, the supreme court issued the order disbarring Sharley.

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