Diane Sullivan, a New Jersey native with a spunky courtroom style, made headlines last fall as Merck’s lead lawyer in the Vioxx trial in Atlantic City. And since she guided the big drugmaker to victory, anticipation was growing over a legal slug-fest with famed Houston attorney Mark Lanier when the next trial begins later this month.

But Sullivan won’t be part of Merck’s team. Nor will Stephen Raber, with whom she clashed near the end of the proceedings.

Instead, Merck’s lead attorney will be Christy Jones of Butler Snow in Mississippi, who worked alongside Sullivan last fall. She’ll be joined by Hope Freiwald, a Sullivan colleague from the Dechert law firm in Princeton; Kevin Dunne of Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, which is based in San Francisco; and Mike Brock of Rushton, Stakely in Montgomery, Ala., who last year succeeded in getting an Alabama state court judge to toss a Vioxx lawsuit.

Sullivan didn’t respond to a message seeking comment. But Ted Mayer, Merck’s outside counsel, who has been heading much of the company’s litigation effort, said the legal teams rotate, given the many Vioxx trials.

“Steve and Diane are both important members of the company’s legal team and have the record to prove it,” he said. “You can expect to see Diane and Steve in the courtroom again.”

He just didn’t say when.

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