Gov. Deval Patrick on Friday nominated departing Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan for a circuit judgeship on the district court and resubmitted a nominee for a western Massachusetts judgeship who was rejected by the Governor's Council last year.

"I have great respect for her and know firsthand her strong commitment to public service. She will be an excellent judge," Patrick said in a statement regarding Heffernan's nomination.

Heffernan intends to remain on as secretary until Jan. 11 when she will step aside for incoming Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral, who is giving up her position as Suffolk County sheriff to join the administration.

Patrick nominated Heffernan despite the recent controversy over her involvement in the hiring of Sheila Burgess as highway safety director despite Burgess's lengthy record of driving infractions.

Heffernan got her start in public service on the staff of former Sen. Patricia McGovern. She graduated from Suffolk University Law School in 1989 and was selected for a clerkship with Appeals Court Judge Charlotte Anne Perretta. After that, she worked for two years at Palmer and Dodge, three years as a Middlesex County prosecutor, four years as executive director of the Massachusetts District Attorneys' Association and seven years as a health care attorney.

Patrick on Friday morning also nominated veteran Pittsfield attorney Michael McCarthy for a Southern Berkshire District Court judgeship and resubmitted to the newly sworn in Governor's Council four nominations that were pending under the old council.

McCarthy has practiced law since 1989 at the firm of George, DeGregorio, Massimiano & McCarthy and served as Pittsfield's city solicitor and assistant district attorney in Berkshire County and Maine before joining the firm. He concentrates on civil litigation at his current law practice.

Last September, after members of the Governor's Council expressed concerns about answers to questions posed to McCarthy at his confirmation hearing, his nomination failed on a 3-3 vote.

With Lt. Gov. Tim Murray in Germany on a trade trip for the National Lieutenant Governors Association, Patrick looked on as McCarthy's nomination failed on a 3-3 vote. The eight-member council sworn in on Thursday features four new members.

A Patrick spokeswoman said last year that the governor was disappointed with the vote on McCarthy's nomination and that he believes McCarthy "is highly qualified to be a judge" and "is very well respected by judges, attorneys and court personnel in Berkshire County."

Councilors Marilyn Devaney, Jennie Caissie and Christopher Iannella, who all remain on the council in 2013, voted against McCarthy last year. Councilor Terrence Kennedy is the only returning councilor who voted for McCarthy last year.

Councilors last year expressed concerns about McCarthy's answers to questions about whether as a judge he would offer help to inexperienced prosecutors. He was also grilled about how he would handle cases in which the prosecution was not proving its case.

The resubmitted nominations include Appeals Court nominee Geraldine Hines and Superior Court nominees Angel Kelly Brown, Brian Davis and Robert Gordon.

Heffernan, who has donated thousands of dollars to the governor, lieutenant governor and other Democrats over the years, could face opposition on the Governor's Council from members who typically look unfavorably at political entanglements.

On Friday, however, several Republicans took to Twitter to defend her nomination, including Republican Rep. Daniel Winslow, a former district court judge and legal counsel to Mitt Romney.

"Mary Beth Heffernan is well regarded in legal community and has the smarts, drive and compassion to be a great District judge," Winslow wrote.

Dan Haley, a vice president of government affairs at Athenahealth and former chief of staff to Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, also backed up Patrick's selection of Heffernan: "MB Heffernan is quality people. Nothing to be defensive about in that nom," he wrote on Twitter.