Cherokee Tribal Court & Indian Law
What We Do

Representation in Cherokee Court

Civil Litigation

Business Development

Tribal Business/Commercal Law

Tribal Construction

Tribal Land Use and Development 

Tribal Property Disputes

Personal Injury on the Reservation

Consultation/ Statutory Drafting

Cherokee Tribal Court & Indian Law

Indian Law:

Over 200 years a unique system of laws has developed covering activities in Indian Country. Across the United States, there are over 55 million acres of "Indian country." Within the tribal lands, a complex set of state, federal and tribal laws govern all activities. This means that there are different laws, different procedures, and even different outcomes when activities occur on the reservation. If you are dealing with Indian Law issues, it is critical to understand this complex system.

James W. Kilbourne, Jr., served as the first chief prosecutor for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for six years prior to returning to private practice. He has been recognized nationally for his work on Indian criminal law and jurisdiction.

Eastern Cherokee Law:

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians controls a territory of nearly 57,000 acres across Western North Carolina. While the Cherokees created a court system in the 1820's, the modern Cherokee Court was founded in 2000. Tribal Council passes ordinances, which are enforced by the Principal Chief and the employees of the tribal departments. The role of the Cherokee Court is to settle civil disputes and judge criminal actions. While much of the law and procedures is similar, there are significant differences, including differences in the statutes of limitation, which govern the time period for bringing suit. It is important that you seek legal assistance as soon as possible after an incident, so we can use our knowledge and experience to protect your rights.


The Cherokee Court is neither state nor federal court. As prosecutor, James W. Kilbourne, Jr., handled hundreds of cases in Tribal Court and has tried hundreds of cases to Cherokee juries.  Cherokee Court has its own laws and procedures. We can handle all forms of litigation in the Tribal court from multi-million dollar commercial disputes to collecting outside judgments.

Business/Commercial Law:

Whether you are contracting with the Casino or opening a business to serve the booming Cherokee market, it is critical that you understand the requirements of Cherokee law.  Many Companies have begun opening stores to serve this growing tourist destination. The Business Committee of Tribal Council, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and numerous tribal governmental agencies are all involved in the regulation of commercial activities in Cherokee. Failure to follow the unique laws can lead to expensive liability. We can provide the legal expertise to help your business succeed in Cherokee.

Personal Injury:

For many years, our firm represented persons injured by others. If you have a serious injury due to negligence at the Casino, an automobile collision on tribal land, or malpractice by Tribal health professionals, it creates an entirely different wrinkle. Depending upon the situation, these cases might be tried in Federal Court, State Court, or Tribal Court. You may have issues with sovereign immunity or standards of fault different from North Carolina. We have the knowledge and experience to protect your rights.


With the recent boom in the Cherokee economy, there has been an astronomical increase in construction on the Cherokee Lands. However, Cherokee law is not a carbon copy of North Carolina law. As a contractor or subcontractor on a Cherokee project, it is important that you understand your rights before you step foot on the job. If you have a dispute over payment or construction defects, it is important that you find a knowledgeable attorney to represents you. Allen Stahl + Kilbourne has a unique fountain of experience in construction disputes and Indian Law.  We can help you in any phase of the process: reviewing contracts, negotiations, arbitration or filing suit.

Tribal Land Use and Development:

Development in Cherokee requires a specialized knowledge and experience.  The Tribal Development Office, the Tribal Business Committee and the Bureau of Indian Affairs all play an active part in the approval of development projects on the Tribal lands.  It is important to understand the process and provide common sense explanations to investors, business partners, and banks. 

Tribal Property Law:

The process of Tribal property ownership is rooted in Cherokee custom and traditions.  Yet the Eastern Cherokee have one of the best developed systems of land ownership.  Land in Cherokee is owned as a possessory holding by individual tribal members and can be leased to non-members with the proper approval.  While Tribal property issues can be challenging, proper advice can make projects in Cherokee successful and profitable.  It is important to understand these challenges and all of the potential solutions. 

National Indian Law:

While each local situation is unique, Indian law is national law.  Allen Stahl + Kilbourne does not confine their practice to solely local issues. With a national network of contacts and years of experience our lawyers can provide advice on national legal issues and obtain local council to litigate Indian law issues across the country.

Consulting-Statutory Drafting

Unlike many national "Indian-Law only" firms, Allen Stahl + Kilbourne regularly handles a wide variety of cases in numerous legal areas, including, construction, personal injury, criminal law, real property, employment, business and commercial, estate planning, trademark and copyright, zoning, and development. Therefore, we have the base of knowledge to advise Tribes and assist in the drafting of statutory changes.

James W. Kilbourne, Jr., was the first Tribal Prosecutor for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and served for many years as one of the primary proponents of that court's modernization efforts. He also drafted scores of statutes and has been recognized nationally for his work in Indian Law.

Criminal Law:

Within Indian country, even the smallest criminal offense can land certain defendants in Federal Court. At the same time, the State of North Carolina and the Tribe each have areas of exclusive jurisdiction. There are significant differences in the law and punishments in each of these jurisdictions. This can lead to very different outcomes. For example, a drug charge, which might lead to probation in federal or state court could lead to over a year in jail in Cherokee Court.

It is critical that your attorney understand these critical questions of law and jurisdiction. As tribal prosecutor, James W. Kilbourne, Jr., has lectured nationally on criminal jurisdiction and his "Kilbourne Chart" of jurisdiction is being used at several law schools to explain these complex issue.