Gavel

OAKLAND — A civil lawsuit that alleges a Garrett County judge forcibly had sex with an employee says systemic flaws fail to prevent workplace abuses.

The case, filed last week in federal district court in Maryland, details several allegations against Raymond G. Strubin, 65, 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.

Strubin did not return messages left by the Cumberland Times-News.

“Ludwig is filing this action 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,” the document states.

Ludwig’s attorney, Sammy Sugiura Jr. of Pittsburgh-based Cohen & Grace, LLC, said Strubin is aware of the lawsuit and being represented in his official capacity by Maryland’s Office of Attorney General.

Sugiura didn’t know who will represent Strubin in his personal capacity.

The attorney general’s office did not identify Strubin’s personal lawyer, and said it does not comment on pending litigation.

Strubin has until July 26 to file his response to Ludwig’s civil action.

Maryland Judiciary Public Information Officer Brad Tanner said Strubin is actively working and presiding over cases.

“He is not available for interview,” Tanner said via email and added that the state’s judiciary doesn’t know who Strubin’s personal lawyer is. “We do not have that information.”

‘She was terminated’

Strubin began his term as the Garrett County Circuit Court judge on Sept. 22, 2014.

“Immediately after … he arranged for Ludwig to get a job as jury commissioner/law librarian for the Circuit Court for Garrett County,” the lawsuit states.

Ludwig did not meet the qualifications for the position, “but Strubin insisted that Ludwig take the job so that they would have more time for their romantic relationship at work,” it states.

For nearly five years, “Strubin required Ludwig to regularly have sex with him to keep her job,” the document states.

On April 29, 2019, Strubin told Ludwig “she should provide him with (oral sex) to celebrate her birthday. When Ludwig refused, Strubin became enraged, and forcibly had sex with Ludwig, without her consent,” it states.

“After Strubin finished, Ludwig immediately left work and never returned,” the lawsuit states.

“She was terminated because she didn’t return to work,” Sugiura said and added that he couldn’t provide more details yet.

The Garrett County Circuit Court website Friday indicated that the jury commissioner and law librarian position remains vacant.

Mechanisms ‘are lacking’

“Judges in Maryland are required to comply with state and federal laws, just like any other citizen,” Ludwig’s case states. “However, the mechanisms responsible for ensuring a judge’s compliance with workplace laws and regulations in Maryland are lacking.”

While the courts and Commission on Judicial Disabilities provide individuals with some recourse, “those forums are reactionary measures and often require an individual to endure severe and pervasive behavior before issues can be addressed,” it states.

“As a result, harassment by judges — like the harassment that Ludwig endured for years by Strubin — can go unchecked for years. Sometimes, indefinitely,” it states.

“In Garrett County, there is no mechanism or process to supervise, monitor, or address Judge Strubin’s behavior in the workplace,” the lawsuit states. “While Strubin administratively reports to the Circuit Administrative Judge for the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Maryland, it is believed that the position of Circuit Administrative Judge has no independent authority to discipline or remove Strubin from his position.”

The Cumberland Times-News contacted various state officials and asked questions, including who and how Ludwig’s claims could be investigated.

By Friday afternoon, some hadn’t responded, and none provided details.

Governor’s office mum

A recent Change.org petition aimed at Gov. Larry Hogan for a “full investigation” of the allegations against Strubin had more than 600 signatures on Friday.

According to the state archives’ Constitution of Maryland, any judge can be removed from office by the governor upon court conviction, incompetency, willful neglect of duty, misbehavior in office or any other crime, “or on impeachment, according to this Constitution, or the Laws of the State; or on the address of the General Assembly, two-thirds of each House concurring in such address, and the accused having been notified of the charges against him, and having had opportunity of making his (defense).”

Hogan’s office did not respond to emails that asked for his reaction to Ludwig’s charges against Strubin, and the Change.org petition, as well as a request to interview the governor.

Joy Kroeger-Mappes is co-founder and past chairperson of the Women’s Action Coalition, Greater Allegany County.

She signed the Change.org petition.

“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for men in positions of power to sexually exploit and use women and to threaten and sexually assault them if met with any resistance to their desires,” she said via email.

“In conservative parts of the US, e.g., Allegany and Garrett counties, I think sexual assault and sex discrimination (is) more prevalent because it is more acceptable to view women as less than and whose purpose is to serve and defer to men,” Kroeger-Mappes said. “Men (that) have more status and money are less often found out and held accountable than are working class or men of color.”

EEOC, MCCR silent

Ludwig’s lawsuit states she dual-filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Maryland Commission on Civil Rights on Oct. 29, 2019.

“The parties conducted mediation through the EEOC but Strubin did not attend,” it states.

The EEOC said it is prohibited by federal statute to disclose investigative employment discrimination charge file records to anyone other than involved parties, which, for now at least, aren’t willing to provide details.

A message left for a Maryland Commission on Civil Rights staff member was not returned.

The civil rights commission’s website states that the organization “represents the interest of the state to ensure equal opportunity for all through enforcement of Titles 20 of the State Government Article, and 19 of the State Procurement & Finance Article, Annotated Code of Maryland. MCCR investigates complaints of discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and the State’s commercial non-discrimination policy from members of protected classes that are covered under those laws.”

Judicial Disabilities reticent

Maryland’s Commission on Judicial Disabilities declined to comment on Ludwig’s lawsuit.

“Due to confidentiality rules, the commission is unable to disclose whether it will investigate a matter,” attorney Kendra R. Jolivet, the commission’s executive secretary, said via email.

“The only complaints that can be addressed by the commission are those involving a Maryland judge’s alleged sanctionable conduct, disability or impairment,” the commission’s website states.

“Sanctionable conduct” includes an allegation of a judge’s misconduct while in office, specifically “using the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge and others” and “out of court behavior such as sexual harassment, bribery, theft, driving while intoxicated, making threats, making racist comments, ticket-fixing, or criminal behavior,” the website states.

Bar association quiet

According to Maryland’s state archives website, Strubin was born in Baltimore on April 13, 1956.

He was an assistant public defender in Allegany County from 1991-96, assistant district public defender in Garrett County from 1996-2014, and has been a member of the Garrett County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council since 2004.

His background includes work as a certified public accountant and adjunct professor at Garrett College.

The website also shows Strubin is a member of organizations, including the Knights of Columbus, Elks Lodge, Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, Garrett County Memorial Hospital and the Maryland State Bar Association.

The state bar association did not respond to questions.

The nonprofit organization’s Linkedin page states “Our mission is to effectively represent Maryland’s lawyers, to provide member services and to promote professionalism, diversity in the legal profession, access to justice, service to the public, and respect for the rule of law.”

Ethics commission uncommunicative

Messages left for Maryland State Ethics Commission staff were not returned.

According to the organization’s website, the commission has five members that are private citizens and meet approximately six times a year “to consider policy, advice and enforcement matters.”

In national spotlight

Strubin gained national media 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.

In May 2020, Strubin closed public access to documents in the State of Maryland vs. Megan Virginia Shaffer, but didn’t provide specific reasons.

“Upon consideration of the facts and evidence presented in the above-captioned case, it is hereby ordered by the Circuit Court for Garrett County, Maryland that all exhibits entered in this matter be sealed,” he stated.

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