Patrick Hobbs
Patrick Hobbs (Carmen Natale)

Seton Hall University School of Law Dean Patrick Hobbs is planning to resign next May.

Hobbs, who has been the head of the law school for 15 years, said he will take a sabbatical at the end of the current academic year and return to teach tax law.

“It’s just time,” Hobbs said of his decision to step down. “Fifteen years is a long time as dean. It will be 16 years when I’m done.”

No replacement has been named, Hobbs said, adding that he expected the university to select a search committee in the coming weeks.

“I wanted to give the university a full year,” he said.

During his sabbatical, Hobbs will continue to act as the ombudsman for the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Hobbs, 54, who also is the chairman of the State Commission of Investigation, was tapped by Christie in April to be the administration’s ombudsman. His task is to create a system of ethics compliance and training and to act as a sounding board for executive branch officials with ethics questions or concerns.

Appointing an ombudsman was proposed by attorneys at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm hired by Christie to conduct an internal review into last fall’s closure of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge.

The firm cleared Christie of any wrongdoing and has blamed his former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and David Wildstein, a former Christie appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, for the closures, which allegedly were orchestrated to retaliate against Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich after he decided not to support Christie for re-election.

Hobbs earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Seton Hall in 1982, his J.D. from the University of the North Carolina School of Law in 1985 and an LL.M. in taxation from New York University School of Law in 1988.

He practiced law first in Roseland, N.J., at the now-defunct firm Hannoch Weisman from 1985 to 1987 and then in Morristown, N.J., at Shanley & Fisher, which has since merged with Drinker Biddle & Reath, from 1987 to 1990.

Hobbs joined Seton Hall’s law school in 1990 as a faculty member and was promoted to associate professor in 1993 and then to full professor in 1996. He taught courses in law and literature, taxation, corporate tax and business planning. He was named associate dean for finance in 1995 and became dean in 1999.

Hobbs joined the SCI, the agency charged with investigating organized crime, corruption, taxpayer waste and other abuses, as a commissioner in 2004 and became acting chairman upon the death of former attorney general W. Cary Edwards in October 2010. The following April, Christie appointed him chairman.

Hobbs said he believed his major accomplishment since becoming dean was making Seton Hall’s law school nationally known and by ensuring its students receive a quality education and opportunities for employment in the profession.

When he took the job, he said he had hoped to have housing built for law students, but that idea did not come to fruition and he noted that it was unlikely that those dormitories or apartments would have been filled.

“Maybe that was a good one to miss,” he said.

Contact the reporter at mbooth@alm.com.