In Java 6, check TableRowSorter and its good buddy RowFilter.
Basically, you create a TableRowSorter with your table's model; if you don't want sorting you can turn off sorting for each column using setSortable.
Next up, you create a RowFilter. You can use one of the static methods in that class, or create your own subclass which implements the include method. You set that for your TableRowSorter, then set the TableRowSorter for your table.