Law Filter: Please help me find a case on
May 6, 2013 11:13 AM   Subscribe

I am aware of two civil cases that I'd like to find more information on.

I am aware of two civil cases that I'd like to find more information on. One I have seen an official docket (and could probably find again), the other all I have are the parties names. Both are against an individual Bikram Choudhury. One from Sarah Baughn, the other Pandhora Williams.

I have a account and from the front page I choose 'find a case' -> 'case locator' -> 'all courts' -> 'party name' I have tried all variations here and I'm not getting anything. I see older cases that involve the same Bikram Choudhury but none of these more recent ones.

Am I using the wrong resource? Is there something I'm not selecting properly?

This question is not intended to solicit legal advice. I am not directly involved with any of the parties noted here.
posted by ezekieldas to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The first thing that comes to mind is that PACER only covers federal courts, so if the cases were filed in state court (and most general civil matters are), they won't turn up in PACER.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:18 AM on May 6, 2013

Looks like at least one of those was in Los Angeles Superior Court.
posted by yohko at 11:22 AM on May 6, 2013

Yeah, I see just from reviewing wikipedia quickly that at least the Baughn one is a case in California Superior Court, so it will not be listed on PACER which is for federal courts only. I am unaware of a consistent electronic resource for California courts; I believe it is implemented county-by-county at the moment so you may need to speak to a paralegal or something in the LA area to get more info about that one.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:23 AM on May 6, 2013

Assuming these are in federal court, are you searching on the individual court's PACER site or the national site? The one for which you have a docket should be easy to find - go to that court's PACER site (e.g., and search by the case number.
posted by payoto at 11:23 AM on May 6, 2013

Good catch by pardonyou? -- it's entirely possible (likely, even) that the cases are in state court. Searching those dockets is a hit-or-miss proposition, although Westlaw has a service that may help some: Dockets & Documents. (I don't use the service, and my guess is it's very expensive, but perhaps you can find someone who will run the search for you, or you can buy an hour's access to it or something.)
posted by spacewrench at 11:26 AM on May 6, 2013

Best answer: This is exactly what your local law library is for. Many of them are open to the public. Your profile says you're in Oakland, so I'm sure there are libraries in the Bay Area that will have what you're looking for. I would try law libraries associated with a law school. Here is a list of resources to get you started.
posted by calistasm at 11:32 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the excellent responses. I like the idea of getting acquainted with the law library as my interest in law extends further than just the cases I've mentioned here.

The confusion regarding PACER and the older cases I see there may be because those cases involved copyright issues?
posted by ezekieldas at 11:48 AM on May 6, 2013

I'm curious which confusion with PACER you are referring to?

There are not copyright issues with cases, especially not federal cases (although both Lexis & Westlaw have copyright in their pagination of cases), regardless of age. There are, however, major manpower and money issues with electronic databases of cases prior to electronic filing (where "filing" means "giving your documents to the court for use in the case" not where "filing" means "storing documents for future use"). The issue with RECAP and PACER is not a copyright issue--it's an issue of fee-free exemption agreements and the fees charged for downloading documents.

At any rate, with older federal cases, many of the documents associated with a case are not available in PACER because they were filed as paper copies only and have been moved to regional warehouses. Often, only the orders have been scanned and made available through PACER, although you can request the file be pulled and specify which documents from it that you want copied for you.

And, of course, most state/county courts are not yet operating under electronic filing systems so a great deal of case information is just not readily accessible outside of the clerk's office which handles the files for the cases.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:36 PM on May 6, 2013

Sounds like cases on PACER might have been over copyright claims, this maybe.
posted by exogenous at 1:05 PM on May 6, 2013

Best answer: The Williams case is also in LA County Superior Court. It's PANDHORA WILLIAMS VS BIKRAMS YOGA COLLEGE OF INDIA LP ET AL, Docket No. BC461824. Superior Court of California Los Angeles County. You need to check the docket for that court.
posted by interplanetjanet at 2:34 PM on May 6, 2013

Best answer: If you go here and put in the docket # you can look at a summary of the docket. Looks like they charge for documents.
posted by interplanetjanet at 2:37 PM on May 6, 2013

On the copyright cases – yes, the previous Bikram lawsuits were filed in Federal court. This Bikram fellow was going around suing his former students for teaching "his" yoga.

These messy court cases have led many to question Choudhury’s devotion to yoga as well as his intentions. Perhaps he has a love for flashy cars and piles of money, but Choudhury expresses unrivaled confidence in his practice. “I can make you live 100 years,” he told ABC. “I cure patient, absolutely no hope—98 percent heart was clogged. Send him to me,” Bikram continued. “Eight months later I send him back—brand new heart, like a panther heart.”

However, it seems a Federal judge was unimpressed with Bikram's Warrior Pose:

Somewhere in Choudhury’s office is a tall stack of lawsuits that he has filed against former students for copyright and trademark infringement. Some of them have been settled out of court, but the recent ruling in the case of Bikram vs. Evolation set his agenda back a few steps. According to the court ruling, Choudhury’s 26-pose yoga sequence is not covered under Choudhury’s copyrights, and thus, there can be no infringement.

Which Judge might that be? Metafilter's favorite Federal jurist, of course.

“Copyrights cover an author’s creative expression of facts and ideas – the facts and ideas themselves are not protected,” U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright, II, wrote. Only certain categories of works may be copyrighted, and the Bikram Yoga sequence did not fall into any of those categories. In short, when it comes to hot yoga, cooler heads and common sense may finally be prevailing.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:38 AM on May 7, 2013

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