WASHINGTON – President Obama became the third president to nominate Dennis P. Walsh of Olney to a federal post on Wednesday, this time as chairman of the Special Panel on Appeals.
“I’m just pleased to be able to serve in this position and to have the opportunity,” Walsh said Thursday.
If the Senate confirms the nomination, Walsh, 55, will serve a six-year term. The panel settles discrimination complaints from federal employees that are first heard by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and then the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. When those two bodies cannot agree on an outcome, the case is decided by the appeals panel, which would include Walsh and one member each from the MSPB and the EEOC.
President Clinton first nominated Walsh as a National Labor Relations Board member in 2000. The five members of the quasi-judicial board are appointed by the president to decide labor law cases between private employers and unions.
President Bush nominated him for the NLRB again successfully in 2002 and 2005, and unsuccessfully 2008, when the nomination died in a Senate committee.
Walsh has served as the deputy general counsel for the Federal Labor Relations Authority since December 2009. Previously, he held a variety of posts with the National Labor Relations Board from 1984 to 1989, and again from 1994 to 2009, spending five years at a private law firm in Philadelphia, Pa., from 1989 to 1994.
Being chairman for the Special Panel of Appeals would be similar to his duties for the NLRB, Walsh said: “I adjudicated cases … and decided the factual and legal issues, and that’s what I’ll be doing in this position.”
Presidential appointees are often chosen for their political views, but Walsh has the distinction of being appointed by both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Ross Runkel, editor of the LawMemo blog, described Walsh as “a first-class lawyer,” and said that he is clearly a Democrat.
“I would describe his views as being pro-union and pro-employee,” said Runkel, of Salem, Ore. “He is the kind of appointee that corporations won’t like, but he’s not an extremist. He’s incredibly competent.”
According to the Federal Election Commission’s contribution database, Walsh contributed $250 to the Democratic National Committee during the 2004 presidential election campaign. When asked about his political views, Walsh had no comment.
Walsh’s wife, Barbara A. O’Neill, works for the NLRB as a managing attorney in the Contempt Litigation and Compliance Branch.
Originally from Oxford, N.Y., Walsh has a law degree from Cornell Law School in Ithaca, N.Y., and a bachelor’s degree in government from Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.
He and his wife have two children, Steven, 19, and Rose, 14. They have lived in Maryland since 1994.