Michael Arai Behrens represents clients in a wide range of litigation before federal and state courts and arbitral tribunals. He has litigated contract, defamation, commercial lease, health care fraud, RICO, labor union, and C-suite employment disputes, and has argued and won before the Ninth Circuit and in district court.
Mr. Behrens specializes in representing governments and universities, and advises and guides institutions facing regulatory action. His past and present clients include the County of San Bernardino, UCLA, and the Board of Regents of the University of California. Mr. Behrens currently represents a large Southern California county facing an investigation by the state Attorney General into its child welfare services agency.
Mr. Behrens also conducts complex and sensitive internal investigations. In 2017, together with former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, Mr. Behrens led a high-profile investigation into allegations that officials in the University of California Office of the President interfered with a state audit. In 2013, Mr. Behrens conducted a sensitive investigation into racial bias at UCLA on behalf of a blue-ribbon panel chaired by Justice Moreno. The resulting “Moreno Report” was lauded by faculty as an important step for the university in supporting a diverse faculty, and its recommendations were adopted by UCLA.
The son of a Japanese-American mother who was born in an internment camp, Mr. Behrens maintains an extensive pro bono practice, with a particular interest in immigration. In 2013, Mr. Behrens obtained a landmark constitutional holding from the Ninth Circuit. Arguing on behalf of a pro bono immigration client, Mr. Behrens argued that the INS had violated his client’s constitutional due process rights when the agency mishandled his mother’s naturalization petition in 1985, depriving him of automatic U.S. citizenship. In the resulting opinion, Brown v. Holder, 763 F.3d 1141 (9th Cir. 2014), the Ninth Circuit held for the first time that a constitutional right exists to apply for 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. Mr. Behrens is a board member of the Legal Aid Society of Orange County.
- International Arbitration: Represented Western Digital and its SanDisk subsidiaries in their widely publicized dispute with Toshiba over anti-transfer provisions in joint venture agreements governing the manufacture and development of NAND flash memory.
- Confidential Arbitration: Represented founder and CEO of well-known mobile application in multi-million dollar arbitration concerning breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties, and related business torts.
- Employment Matter: Represented the State Bar of California in a high-profile lawsuit brought by its former executive director, Joseph Dunn. Secured summary judgment in the same matter for the State Bar’s former president.
- 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.
- 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: While at Irell, 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.
- UCOP Audit Fact-Finding: Conducted a high-profile investigation for Board of Regents of the University of California into allegations that officials at the University’s Office of the President interfered with a state audit.
- Moreno Report, UCLA: Conducted a high-profile investigation at UCLA into issues of racial bias on campus.