Heerey attended St Virgil's College and the University of Tasmania, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws (first class honours) degree. He practiced as a solicitor in Hobart, before moving to Melbourne to become a barrister in 1967, and was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1985.
Heerey was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in 1990.
In 2000 he was appointed President of the Australian Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal, in 2003 a Deputy President of the Australian Competition Tribunal and in 2005 a Presidential Member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
He has published papers in Australian and overseas professional and academic journals in the areas of corporations law, defamation, expert evidence, intellectual property, law and literature and Federation history.
He has been Judge in Residence at Samford University, Birmingham. Alabama (1993), McGill University, Montreal, Quebec (1996-97), University College Dublin (2001) and the University of Tasmania (2005). In 2007 he taught a course in Patent and Trade Mark Law at the Monash University campus in Prato, Italy.
He is Vice President of the Arts Law Centre of Australia. In 2009 he was appointed Chair of the Australian Electoral Commission.
Heerey is currently practising at the Victorian Bar specialising in advice, arbitration and mediation. He is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
On 26 January 2012 Heerey was awarded a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to the judiciary through the Federal Court of Australia, to the development of legal principle in the areas of intellectual property, trade practices and military law, and to the community.
In addition to his role as a Federal Court Justice, Heerey was also President of the Defence Force Discipline Appeals Tribunal, a Deputy President of the Australian Competition Tribunal and a Presidential member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
He has presided over a number of high-profile Australian cases, including the collusion charges against businessman Richard Pratt, which resulted in the largest fine for collusion against an Australian business in history.
Heerey retired from the court on 16 February 2009.