Coming Up in CQ Researcher

D.C. Voting Rights
By Colin Soloway
This November, in addition to electing a new president, Americans will vote for a third of the Senate and every member of the House. The 535 men and women in Congress represent the interests of some 300 million citizens on the vital issues of the day, from war and peace to taxes and spending. But when Congress convenes next March, nearly 600,000 Americans will have no representatives to vote in their name and in their interests. Last year the House passed a bill to provide District of Columbia citizens a full vote in the House for the first time in over 200 years. The resolution is currently stalled in the Senate under threat of a Republican filibuster. Advocates of voting rights argue that there is no constitutional barrier to representation in either the House or Senate. But opponents insist that since the District is not a state, its citizens are not entitled to representation under the Constitution.

Public Defender System

By Barbara Mantel
Do indigent defendants get adequate legal representation? Over the years, several landmark Supreme Court decisions have established the right of an indigent defendant to a court-appointed attorney. But today critics say the nation’s public defender system is in crisis. Roughly 80 to 85 percent of all criminal defendants in state courts, where most crimes are prosecuted, are indigent and represented by some kind of public counsel at an annual cost to states and counties of more than $3.5 billion. But many public defense lawyers and researchers argue that much more needs to be spent because too many indigent defense systems provide inadequate representation to poor people. According to one expert in the field, there are public defender systems in the country where a single public defender will handle 1,000 cases in a year. In addition to funding, deficiencies in the system are blamed on excessive caseloads, high turnover of underpaid lawyers, poor training and supervision and judicial interference.

The U.S. and the ‘New’ Russia
By Roland Flamini
When Russian voters elected a new president on March 2, the outcome was hardly in doubt. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, 42, is both genuinely popular and had the backing of the incumbent, Vladimir Putin. The Bush administration is hoping Medvedev will improve current U.S.-Russian tension. In 2001, Bush said he looked Putin in the eye and saw a man who was “straightforward and honest.” But it was downhill from there. Relations between Washington and the Kremlin got steadily worse after Iraq, with some experts warning that further worsening could lead to a new Cold War. The contours of U.S.-Russian differences have emerged in disagreements over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, in diplomatic stand-offs over Kosovo, Ukraine and Georgia (Russian neighbors who want to join NATO), in disputes over gas and oil pipelines and above all in the Bush administration’s plan to put an anti-missile system in Eastern Europe. Caught in the middle as usual is Europe, the historic battlefield of Russian expansionism. French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed the general concern – increasingly reflected in the polls – that “ Russia is imposing its return on the world scene by playing its assets, notably oil and gas, with a certain brutality.”