Editor’s note: This story contains material of a violent sexual nature.
OAKLAND — A Garrett County judge forced his employee to regularly have sex with him or “she would lose her health insurance and not be able to receive life-saving cancer treatments,” a federal lawsuit claims.
The civil case, filed Monday in federal district court in Maryland, details several allegations against Raymond G. Strubin — circuit court and administrative judge for Garrett County.
The lawsuit provides claims made by the complainant — Loriann Ludwig, 52, — former Garrett court jury commissioner and law librarian — and only tells one side of the alleged incidents.
A clerk in Strubin’s chamber told the Cumberland Times-News the judge was out of the office Thursday.
A message left for Strubin was not returned prior to press time.
Strubin, 65, gained national attention in 2018 when he presided over a jury trial in the criminal case against Megan Virginia Shaffer, 21, of Ridgeley, West Virginia, who was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Alexander A. Stevens, 24, of Frostburg.
According to the recent lawsuit, Strubin demanded Ludwig have sex with him at work or he’d fire her. The two had been in a relationship for several years, the lawsuit states.
The alleged ultimatums continued until April 29, 2019, when Strubin called Ludwig to wish her a happy birthday, the lawsuit claims.
“During this call, Strubin remarked that Ludwig should give him 50 (acts of oral sex) because she turned 50 years old that day,” the document states.
“Strubin then demanded that Ludwig come to his chambers for sex. When Ludwig went to Strubin’s chambers, she told Strubin that she wanted to end things and would not be having sex with him,” the suit states. “As Ludwig attempted to leave, Strubin became enraged and grabbed Ludwig and pushed her towards his desk. Strubin then slammed Ludwig’s face down towards his desk, pulled down her clothes, and forcibly had sex with Ludwig, without her consent. After Strubin finished, Ludwig immediately left work and never returned.”
Strubin is listed in the lawsuit as defendant “individually and in his official capacity as a member of the Maryland Judiciary and Judge for the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Maryland.”
Quid pro quo
The lawsuit alleges that in 2009, Strubin met Ludwig while she was employed at a local bookstore, and the two developed a friendship that eventually turned into a romantic relationship.
“Since Strubin and Ludwig were both married, their time spent together was often limited to periods when they were both supposed to be working,” it states.
On Aug. 26, 2014, former Gov. Martin O’Malley appointed Strubin to fill the vacancy on the circuit court for Garrett County, and after Strubin began his term, he arranged for Ludwig to get her job, according to the filing.
Although she did not meet qualifications for the position, “Strubin insisted that Ludwig take the job so that they would have more time for their romantic relationship at work,” the document states.
As soon as Ludwig began her employment with the Circuit Court for Garrett County, Strubin asked her to engage in a variety of romantic activities during work hours, the lawsuit claims.
“If other employees were present, Strubin would use hand signals to tell Ludwig when he wanted to have sex,” the document states. “For instance, if Strubin made a Vulcan salute hand gesture, it meant that he wanted to have sex that day.”
Strubin would also take Ludwig on trips, often while conducting business on behalf of the Maryland Judiciary, the lawsuit states.
“As Strubin grew increasingly comfortable with his power and authority as a Circuit Court Judge, he became reckless and demanded that Ludwig have sex with him at work, in his chambers,” the lawsuit alleges. “Despite his recklessness, Strubin continued to tell Ludwig that they had to keep their relationship a secret.”
In 2015, Ludwig told Strubin she wanted to end the connection, the document states.
“Strubin, however, told Ludwig that if she stopped having sex with him, he would fire her,” the document states. “Ludwig felt trapped by Strubin but continued working … because she needed the money to live.”
He initially used romance in response to her rejection, the lawsuit states.
“When those gestures failed, Strubin gave Ludwig jewelry and other gifts. When jewelry and gifts failed to ameliorate the situation, Strubin resorted to threats,” the suit states.
He told her he was “more powerful than God and that if Ludwig stopped having sex with him, he would ruin her life and the lives of everyone she knew,” the document states.
“Unfortunately, Ludwig was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in April 2016, and she had to keep her job in order to have the necessary health insurance so that she could stay alive,” the lawsuit states.
It also states that Ludwig underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapies.
“Although Ludwig’s cancer treatments were necessary, they were also grueling and caused significant changes to her body, weight, and hair,” the document states.
“During Ludwig’s cancer treatments, Strubin continued to force Ludwig to have sex with him. Strubin would often tell Ludwig that he liked the changes to her body because it felt like he was dating someone new. Strubin would also ask Ludwig to wear different wigs to work because it allowed him to imagine that he was having sex with a different girl each time Ludwig changed her wig.”
Strubin would also “cruelly remind Ludwig that if she were fired, she would not have the money to continue her chemotherapy treatments and would die,” it states.
As Ludwig later began to recover from breast cancer, she started to imagine a life without Strubin, the document states.
Shielded from process
According to the filing, on Oct. 29, 2019, Ludwig dual-filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.
During the administrative agency process, an attorney from the Maryland Office of the Attorney General represented the interests of Strubin and the Maryland Judiciary, the document states.
“In this situation, Strubin was completely shielded from the administrative agency process,” the lawsuit states. “For example, the parties conducted mediation through the EEOC but Strubin did not attend.”
The lawsuit states that during mediation, Ludwig offered to be questioned by the Maryland OAG attorney.
“Ludwig provided the Maryland OAG attorney with detailed information about her relationship with Strubin,” the document states. “Counsel for Ludwig also offered to provide information about the motels Strubin used to have sex with Ludwig and pictures of the jewelry that Strubin provided Ludwig, along with any other information they possessed.”
The Maryland OAG defended Strubin and the Maryland Judiciary “by arguing that the applicable federal and state laws concerning discrimination and harassment in the workplace did not apply to Ludwig’s claims because Strubin drafted Ludwig’s employment contract in a specific manner so that certain federal and state anti-discrimination laws would not apply based on the parties that were named in the employment contract.”
Ludwig filed the claims “to confront the trauma she experienced and to ensure that no other employee of the Maryland Judiciary is forced to endure the harassment and abuse she went through for years,” the document states.
Claims and relief
Counts in the lawsuit allege Strubin committed against Ludwig include battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and deprivation of rights provided by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution that guarantees citizens equal protection of laws and claims for relief.
“As a result of Strubin’s behavior, Ludwig was traumatized and developed depression, anxiety, and severe emotional distress,” the lawsuit states. “Following the events of April 29, 2019, Ludwig never left her home as she was terrified of seeing Strubin. Ludwig’s life was permanently altered by Strubin’s behavior as she was unable to work, care for herself, or even accomplish the most basic life tasks in the months following the sexual assault.”
The lawsuit asks that Ludwig be awarded “back pay, front pay, lost benefits, and other emoluments of employment and such other relief as is necessary to make her whole,” compensatory damages for pain, humiliation, and emotional distress, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, pre- and post-judgment interest as provided by law, and “any other relief to which she is entitled and/or which this court deems necessary and proper.”
Ludwig filed the lawsuit “to confront her tormentor and pursue meaningful change within the Maryland Judiciary, and other state entities, so that discriminatory and harassing behavior in the workplace can be prevented, and not just managed after abuse, harassment, and/or assaults have occurred,” it states.
‘Keep it secret’
Ludwig’s attorney, Sammy Sugiura Jr. of Pittsburgh-based Cohen & Grace, LLC, said Strubin is aware of the lawsuit.
“He’s being represented in his official capacity by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office,” Sugiura said Thursday. “They have received a copy of the complaint.”
He didn’t know who will represent Strubin in his personal capacity.
Sugiura asked for a jury trial in the case.
“At the initial stage we have to make that demand if we want to keep that option open,” he said.
Ludwig, who has lived in Garrett County for decades, didn’t report to authorities the alleged abuses at the time they occurred because she was too frightened that Strubin’s influence in the area would prevent her from getting fair treatment, her lawyer said.
“She didn’t think that anything would be done if she reported it to the police when it happened,” he said. “It made her too scared to report it … The judge did everything he could to keep it secret.”
That intimidation coupled with small-town connections is partly why Ludwig went outside the area to find legal representation, he said.
“That’s something she’s been fearful of given the nature of the allegations,” Sugiura said.
Ludwig filed a civil rather than criminal complaint because too much time had passed after the alleged April 29, 2019, experience, Sugiura said.
“When there’s a lot of time that’s elapsed from the incident to the reporting … it becomes much harder,” he said of fighting a criminal case.
“This has been something that (Ludwig) has worked on and taken that amount of time to kind of build herself up,” Sugiura said. “It has been an extremely, extremely difficult process.”