2023 Forty Under 40: Emily Munson

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(IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Policy Director & Senior Attorney | Indiana Disability Rights

Emily Munson is responsible for the legislative strategy at Indiana Disability Rights, the state’s federally mandated advocacy agency. She manages the agency’s health care-related litigation, oversees its fellows and legal interns, and handles external communications, whether developing press releases or educating lawmakers. She also teaches disability law at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Born with muscular dystrophy, Munson said she garners satisfaction knowing that her clients realize she understands their plight. She said a student she once represented was brought to tears because a legal brief Munson wrote referred to the student as “Deaf” versus “deaf,” meaning the student not only is physically deaf but also shares the culture—beliefs, attitudes and language—of similar people who are deaf. “She was stunned that a hearing attorney knew a bit about Deaf politics,” Munson said.

Getting here: Frustrated over a required physical exam to join the foreign service, she began exploring disability rights, she said. Law school and a job at the Family & Social Services Administration followed. She worked as an administrative law judge and staff attorney but wanted to work toward policy change.

First job: intern for Gov. Mitch Daniels

Influential moment: In a case before the U.S. Supreme Court—Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County v. Talevski— Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked a question that referred to one of the facts in an amicus brief Munson filed in the case. “That was a gratifying moment,” Munson said.

Givebacks: Munson is chair of the Indianapolis Mayor’s Advisory Council on Disability and serves on the national board of the Association of People Supporting Employment First. She volunteers for the local chapter of Canine Companions for Independence and was a founding member of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana.

Self-realization: “I’ve learned that my disability can be an advantage in the workplace. Beyond the ability to empathize with clients and colleagues from marginalized backgrounds, it causes some to underestimate me.”

Advice: “Make friends with Strunk and White,” she said about the book “The Elements of Style.” She added, “Communicating well, especially in writing, is critical to many professions. Wonderful ideas are diminished when they cannot be conveyed to others effectively.”•

Check out more Forty Under 40 honorees.

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