Almena and Max Harris each face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. They agreed to plead no contest to every count in August, with Harris to receive a six-year prison sentence. But Judge James Cramer rejected the plea deal, saying Almena failed to show enough remorse.
Outside court, Mary Vega, whose 22-year-old son died in the fire, expressed frustration with the slow pace.
One of two men charged in a Northern California warehouse fire that killed 36 people is attempting to resurrect a scuttled plea agreement.
On Friday, lawyers for Derick Almena are expected to argue in an Oakland court that a judge in August wrongly rejected an agreement reached with prosecutors to have Almena plead no contest to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a nine-year sentence.
Judge James Cramer ruled that Almena failed to show sufficient remorse for his role in the December 2016 fire. The 48-year-old rented the warehouse and illegally converted it into an underground entertainment venue and live-work space for artists.
Cramer rejected the plea deal after listening to grieving families of victims testify for two days about their losses.