So here's my rundown of what has transpired so far. Thank you to all that have answered me and provided guidance.
I followed your advice above and after reading your very informative thread on arbitration @fisthardcheese thank you for that posting btw.
I'm explaining this in detail for those of out there, like I was, that have no idea what to expect and are super nervous about it all. My experience is in FL and I am not saying this is the case for everyone but here is my own experience. I did not file an answer or MTCArb prior to this day as I was told by the judge's clerk that this was a mediation and not a trial so it wasn't necessary yet.
tl:dr My MTCArb was granted by the judge. I now have questions about arbitration based on my experience as described in the last 5 paragraphs regarding my Hearing experience below.
First was my pre trial conference (PTC) which I was very nervous about. Turns out it was way more relaxed than I anticipated. I showed up, sat for awhile, then was called to speak with the judge. He explained that this was a mediation and asked if I had any questions and I asked if this was where I asserted my desire for arbitration. He said no and tried to told me that I would have to participate in mediation. Bear in mind, I am in a smaller county in FL. So he sent me to sit back down for a bit and then was called by a very nice mediator who put me at ease quickly. He asked me a few questions about my name, do I understand what is happening, address, simple stuff really. He then called the attorney representing PRA, my nerves came back. The mediator explained who he was and why he was calling, asked for some contact details from the attorney and then asked the attorney what his claim was. The attorney stated that this is for a Synchrony Card and stated the amount was xxxx plus another xxx for court costs/fees for a total of xxx. He then asked me if I admit having the card, the amount was correct and if I admit to owning it. Nerves almost got me to say no, but I simply stated that I would be electing arbitration as stated in the Synchrony Card Agreement (SCA). He asked me if I was sure and I said I stated I would like to elect arbitration. The mediator asked me if I was sure, and again I said I elect arbitration. The attorney then stated to the mediator that this mediation was over as we weren't able to come to an agreement. The mediator said okay and said that he would be sent a court date. I waited a few more minutes and was called to the front again and given my court date and left.
So I came home and tightened up my MTCarb that I had posted here as well as my answer. I then prepared the letters electing arbitration to PRA and their attorney. I waited a few weeks as I had 45 days until my case to send the letters to see if the case would be dismissed. Since it was not, I sent the letters CRRR to both and waited a week until I got back the RR from the attorney. I'm still waiting on the RR from PRA almost 3 weeks after. I then went to my court and filed my MTCArb, Answer and Judge's Order. Only those, I was told that any supporting docs could be presented at my hearing.
So I watched online to see if my case would be dismissed by PRA. I'm glad that I did b/c otherwise I would've missed my MTCArb hearing as my court date was rescheduled to a later date for the hearing as well as all of my filings being added. I then downloaded them and sent them to the attorneys for PRA.
On hearing day, I showed up an hour early just b/c of nerves again. This is a very stressful situation for a non-lawyer person as it feels like life or death.when in reality, the judge, clerks and even the opposing attorney was as nice as possible. Again, my area is different from yours so do not expect this to be your experience. So standing outside the court waiting, the opposing attorney asked if I was the person being sued and I said yet. He stated that PRA hadn't given him much info about me and asked what the hearing was for. I stated I had filed a MTCArb and he shook his head and said something to the effect that it should be granted b/c the SCA and FL Statute provided for it. We chatted about our personal situations for another 15 or 20 minutes and were then called into court.
Again, nerves kicked in. The judge spoke, stated that this was a hearing to determine whether arbitration was to be granted or denied. I got the distinct impression that he did not want to send me to arbitration as he told me multiple times how bad arbitration is, how expensive, how much better to settle it today would be, why I should use court instead of arbitration and then finally said, tell me why you believe I should grant your MTCArb. I explained that 1) based upon the SCA I am afforded the right to "demand" arbitration according to its wording. 2) The FAA enforces my right to arbitration. 3) The Supreme Court upheld the FAA ensuring my right to arbitration 4) FL Statutes spell out that I have the right to arbitration as long as I followed the proper procedure which 5) I had done by sending letters to PRA and their attorneys prior to the hearing and I have all of this with me and notarized.
The judge said "well, okay then." He turned to opposing counsel, whom I could see out of the corner of my eye smiling as I made my points and asked them to explain their objections. Opposing counsel said they had none as they had very limited information with regards to my case and that PRA had authorized them to agree to arbitration. The judge asked opposing counsel if they were positive no objections, and opposing counsel affirmed no objection. It felt too easy to me to be honest.
The judge again tried to talk me out of arbitration with the same arguments as before which I found really strange, not in a good way to be honest. So my radar was pinging louder and faster than anything as this was just didn't feel like he was trying to help me at all. After trying to talk me into going through the court case, I told the judge thank you but I am ready to follow through with arbitration as I already have my JAMS form filled out if he would like to see it. He stated that he knew nothing about JAMS but there were some local arbitrators that could be used. He and opposing counsel talked about a few names and I said that I prefer to use JAMS.
After about a half hour, the judge finally said that since opposing counsel had no objections and I had presented a good motion, followed proper procedure and adequately represented myself that he would be granting my MTCArb and staying the proceedings. I do realize that he had very little choice based on the law and that I wasn't all that persuasive. At this point my radar relaxed a little but is still pinging pretty good. He said that I would receive it in the mail but I figure that I should be able to download it.
My apologies to the experienced for the length but hope it helps someone along their way. I do have questions about arbitration that will follow in additional posts though.