The ad hominem (full term: argumentum ad hominem, meaning “an argument against man”) is one of the most well-known types of logical fallacies. It’s identified as the second worst kind of argument in a debate, let alone a court of law, next to calling names. While it’s understandable that tensions often run high during debates, resorting to attacks against a person without regard to the debate in hand isn’t a good way to argue the case point by point.
However, ad hominem, as far as law is concerned, isn’t entirely fallacious in nature. Experts say ad hominem is sometimes used to refute the authority of a person speaking about a certain subject; in terms of criminal defense, drawing attention to the integrity of the person speaking. Then again, ad hominem arguments are usually not enough to make a point in legal proceedings. Any ad hominem in the court of law must evolve into a counter-argument by providing supporting evidence to have any level of success.
Alone, ad hominem, even in legal proceedings, is a big no-no in debates. It portrays the guilt of the person even more, given that he may be trying to steer clear of the matter at hand. In fact, if an ad hominem argument goes lower, perhaps to an ad baculum (argument by force or anger), it may be grounds for contempt.