Michael Behrens represents clients in high-stakes litigation arising from complex commercial disputes and enforcement actions. He has particular experience with court challenges to federal and state administrative rulings, and has litigated contract, defamation, commercial lease, health care fraud, RICO, labor union, and C-suite employment disputes. He has argued and won before the Ninth Circuit and in district court.
In addition to his litigation practice, Mr. Behrens also represents clients in complex and sensitive internal investigations, as well as advises and guides private and governmental clients through regulatory enforcement actions. Mr. Behrens is currently representing a large Southern California county facing a high-profile investigation into its child welfare services agency by the state’s attorney general. Additionally, in 2013, Mr. Behrens conducted a sensitive investigation into racial bias at UCLA on behalf of a blue-ribbon panel chaired by former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno. Mr. Behrens led a thorough review of the University’s policies, procedures and governance structure, and conducted interviews with numerous campus stakeholders. The resulting “Moreno Report” and its recommendations were lauded by UCLA faculty and led University of California President Janet Napolitano to issue a letter to the UC Chancellors, requesting that all UC campuses adopt the report’s chief recommendation of a “lead discrimination officer” with independent investigatory powers.
Mr. Behrens has an extensive pro bono practice, with a particular interest in immigration, and recently obtained a landmark constitutional holding from the Ninth Circuit on behalf of a pro bono client. In 2013, Mr. Behrens argued Brown v. Holder, 763 F.3d 1141 (9th Cir. 2014), in the Ninth Circuit and prevailed in a published opinion in which Circuit held for the first time that a constitutional right exists to apply for U.S. citizenship. Mr. Behrens had argued that the INS had violated the due process rights of Mark Brown, a pro bono client, when the agency mishandled his mother’s naturalization petition in 1985, depriving him of automatic U.S. citizenship. A concurrence by Judge Tallman, while agreeing with the result, called the ruling “expansive” and “novel” in finding, for the first time, a “constitutionally protected right to apply for citizenship.”
Mr. Behrens also works with victims of domestic violence in Los Angeles County. Most recently, he achieved a permanent restraining order against an abusive spouse for a victim of domestic abuse, as well as orders of full physical and legal custody of the victim’s two young children.
- Confidential Arbitration: Trial counsel for global data and analytics company in a two‑week arbitration hearing concerning the misuse of proprietary information and trade secrets by another financial services company.
- University Lease Dispute: Represented a major Southern California university in a lease dispute arising from a landlord’s attempt to prevent the university from providing proper signage in the common areas of a leased medical facility.
- Staffing Firm Executive Dispute: Represented one of the largest staffing firms in the U.S. and globally in broad-ranging litigation between the company and a former chief executive involving breach of fiduciary duty, contract, fraud, wrongful termination, and commercial lease issues.
- Commodities Firm Executive Dispute: Represented a global commodities company in litigation between the firm and a former high-level executive involving allegations of false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress.
- Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. ALRB: While at Irell, Mr. Behrens was part of a litigation team that struck down as unconstitutional the compulsory arbitration provisions of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act. The matter is currently pending before the California Supreme Court.
- Agricultural Labor Dispute: Represented one of the largest agricultural employers in California’s Central Valley in broad-ranging litigation against a national labor union involving defamation and regulatory issues under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act.
- Child Welfare Services Investigation: Currently representing a large Southern California county facing a high-profile investigation into its child welfare services agency by the state’s attorney general.
- Moreno Report, UCLA: Conducted a high-profile investigation at UCLA into issues of racial bias on campus.