Agents accused of stealing clients

February 02, 2007 12:00 am

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.

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

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

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.

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

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