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Mary Beth Heffernan confirmed as district court judge

Mary Beth Heffernan

David L Ryan/Globe Staff/File

Mary Beth Heffernan

Mary Beth Heffernan, Governor Deval Patrick’s former public safety chief, today was confirmed on a 7-1 vote by the Governor’s Council as a district court judge.

Councilors, who held a hearing on Heffernan’s appointment last week, offered few comments before the quick approval, and Heffernan herself was not present.

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The lone dissenter, Jennie Caissie, a Republican from Oxford, said in an interview that she was not opposing Heffernan on political grounds. Instead, Cassie said, she was concerned that Heffernan had not practiced in the district courts in more than a decade and was also worried about her answers to hypothetical questions during the hearing.

“I wish her well, and I hope my concerns are misplaced,’’ Caissie said. “But it’s important that they know the ABC’s of the district court before they are accepted to the bench. I hope for the sake of the public she is a quick study.’’

Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray chaired the meeting but did not vote.

Heffernan, the state’s public safety secretary since 2010, was one of several Cabinet members who stepped down in mid-December as Patrick began the final two years of his second term.

Heffernan had been embroiled in the controversy surrounding Sheila Burgess, the state’s former highway safety director, after the Globe reported that Burgess had been hired by Heffernan and others in 2007 despite six crashes and several speeding violations on her driving record.

Heffernan, who was undersecretary at the time of the hiring, acknowledged that Burgess, a longtime Democratic consultant and fund-raiser, should not have been hired for the job.

When he announced Heffernan’s nomination last month, Patrick stoutly defended her as a person who had the “right touch’’ to sit in district court.

According to the administration, Heffernan’s legal background includes seven years as an attorney in the health care field, four as the executive director of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, two years at the Boston law firm of Palmer and Dodge and three years as a Middlesex assistant district attorney.

Noah Bierman can be reached at
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