By Nicholas Grube

Triplicate staff writer

Two local women are accused of stealing from their former employer and are currently defending themselves in a civil trial at Del Norte County Superior Court.

Roberta Holt and Christine Graves are being sued by Penfold-Leavitt Insurance Agency, Inc. in Humboldt County for allegedly stealing customers from the company.

Holt and Graves, former Penfold-Leavitt employees, now work at Western Valley Insurance in Crescent City. The suit claims that Holt and Graves, upon being hired at Western Valley, solicited Penfold-Leavitt's clients.

Holt and Graves say they never solicited anyone.

The trial was set back when Holt and Graves attorney Stephen Silverstein called for a mistrial because the judge, Harold E. Neville, Jr., had received legal documents outside of the courtroom from the plaintiff attorney Bradford Floyd.

andquot;It violates the code of professional ethics,andquot; said Silverman, calling it ex-parte communication.

In court on Jan. 25, Silverman said, andquot;Any communication with the court except through the clerk or in this courtroom by counsel (attorneys), those are ex-parte communications.andquot;

Silverman was concerned this would violate his clients' rights to a fair trial.

His request for a mistrial was subsequently denied on Thursday when an outside judge said that Silverman could not warrant a mistrail.

andquot;We were told we're going forward full-bore,andquot; Floyd said. andquot;It's kind of a moot point now.andquot;

Due to the outside judge's ruling, the trial will resume today at 9 a.m., just as planned.