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Merck & Co. Inc. has dropped New Jersey’s Lowenstein Sandler from its appeal of a $13.5 million Vioxx case to prevent recusal of a potentially pro-company state Supreme Court justice who the firm represents in a private matter.

Lowenstein partner Douglas Eakeley, who won a split decision in the Appellate Division in May, won’t reprise his arguments in the state Supreme Court because since February he has been defending Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto against a complaint that the justice abused the power of his office to gain advantage in a private dispute.

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